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Full text of "Live coals : or, Faces from the fire"

Dictoria R'S" 

COLLECTION 

OF VICTORIAN BOOKS 

AT 

BRIGHAM YOUNG 

UNIVERSITY 







BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY 



3 1197 22919 2353 




LIFE COALS; OR, FACES FROM THE FIRE. 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2012 with funding from 
Brigham Young University 



http://archive.org/details/livecoalsorfacesOObudg 



LIVE COALS; 



OR, 



FACES FROM THE FIRE. 



BY 



L. M. BUDGEN, 

[ACHETA,] 
AUTHOli OF 'EPISODES OF INSECT LIFE.' 



H 




U 



LONDON : 
L. REEVE & CO., 5, HENRI LTTA STREET, COVENT GARDEN. 



UPB 



TO 

HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS 

FIELD-MARSHAL THE DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE, K.G., 

&Ijt5 Uolumr 

IS 

BY HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS'S GRACIOUS PERMISSION 

EERY GRATEFULLY DEDICATED 

BY 

THE AUTHOR. 



CONTENTS. 

Page 

PREFATORY PUFF .... 

IMAGERY OF "ACCIDENT" . . i 

THE FIRE IN A NEW LIGHT 23 

THE FIRE AN EXHIBITOR .... .37 

THE FIRE A SCULPTOR ... ■ ■ 55 



ILLUSTRATIONS. 



[ Erratum. — The Plate numbered 10 should be ! f, and that numbered l l should be 10.J 

PAGE 

•* I. Frontispiece i 

2. Headpiece to Acheta's Prefatory Puff ix 

3. Tailpiece to ditto xii 

4. The Cathedral Mount 3 

5. The Nursery Sybil 22 

v 6. Headpiece to 'The Fire in a New Light' 25 

•*■ 7. Tailpiece to ditto, 'The Oldest of the Old Masters and the 

First of Living Artists' 36 

8. Headpiece to 'The Fire an Exhibitor' 39 

w 9. A Stiff-Necked Pharaoh and Shrinking Satellite 41 

11. Mexican Idol and Modern Housekeeper 43 

10. Fragmentary Forms 42 

t- 12. Memnonic Head and Sphinx-like Fragment . 45 

v 13. Fragment of the Feline, a Sport of "Accident" and Young 

Humanity 46 

^14. Coal Kings 46 

V15. A Pharisaic Fragment and Coal Shivers 47 

1 16. The First Idol and Idolater 5 1 

" 17. Fragmentary Slab 53 

\r 18. Tailpiece 54 



vin ILLUSTRATIONS. 

PAGK 

v 19. Headpiece to The Fire a Sculptor' 57 

20. A Primitive King Block 58 

21. The same Reformed by Fire 60 

> 22. Which is most Musical 61 

^ 23. Transmutation from a Puritantc Preacher (Raw Coal) to a 

Popular Idol (Pitchy Bubble) 63 

• 24. Transmutation: Stage first, Coal Shivers 64 

25. Transmutation : Stage second, Comfortables in Coal-Tar .... 67 

26. Transmutation from a Basso Relievo to an Alto ; from Black 

(Coal) to Brown (Tar) ; from the Low Rascally Blackguard, 

to the Highly Respectable Mr. Brown 68 

27. Opposites, as Pin and Pincushion Made for One Another ... 70 
^28. A Parish Prop 71 

29. Crowing Up; Ghost of the Old White Cock 72 

^30. Military Pendants 73 

4 31. Ear-w-rings 73 

v 32. Sculptural Bits from the Fire, not unlike Bits of Sculpture 

from the Schools (Ancient) 74 

y^. Sculptural Bits from the Fire, something like Bits of Sculpture 

from the Schools (Classical) 75 

34. Sculptural Bits from the Fire, something like Bits of Sculpture 

from the Schools (Medieval) 76 

• 35. Tailpiece 78 









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ACHETA'S PREFATORY PUFF. 



There is no need to introduce ourselves afresh to old friends and patrons, 
only to make our best bow and wear our brightest smile on meeting them 
again. With them our new title-page will be an accepted title to renewed 
favour. To strangers we address a word or two, if only to impress them from 
the beginning with a notion of our thorough competency to the task we have 
undertaken, that of showing up Live Coals. Our fitness for this congenial 
office is indeed almost sufficiently attested by our designation, supposing that 
to be also suitable. " Acheta " — " Acheta domestica " — House Cricket, the 
Cricket of the Hearth. What creature upon earth is so certain to be closely 
conversant with all that belongs to the domestic Fire? If another similarly 
enlightened is to be found, it must be in the person or among the persons of 
those who, both in habitat and habits, bear the nearest resemblance to the 
fire-basking familiar. Of these we are one, or several if you will, and boast 
of a likeness almost to identity with our chirping representative. With us, 
as with it, the winter world extends but a little way beyond the bars, our 
circle of acquaintance being little wider than the circumference of the grate. 
Hence, with observation all the keener for contraction, have we, from our 

b 



X ACHETA'S PREFATORY PUFF. 

corner, as the cricket from his cranny, obtained extraordinary insight into the 
Life of the Coals, and become intimately familiar with Faces in the Fire. 

But our range is not at all times thus contracted. It becomes, annually, 
more or less discursive from the " range " of the grate. That, however, is 
only, as with the cricket, when the hearth is cold, all but in the kitchen, and 
when Life in the Coals, whether " high " or low, is gone " below stairs." Then, 
our double of the hearth still followed, our haunts continue as remote as 
ever from the noise and traffic of the world. We live amongst " the things of 
beauty," the "joys for ever," of the flowery garden, sunny hedgerow, wood 
and wild. In our summer saunterings, as in our winter sittings, warmth and 
brightness are, as with the cricket, the elements we seek ; and we also love 
dearly (the cricket is an acquisitive animal) to pick up something by the way. 
Our gatherings collected in seasons past were " Episodes of Insect Life." Since 
these were scattered to the winds, — -not, we hope, without some fruition, — 
summer and winter, seed-time and harvest, have come and gone times over. 
Yet here we are again (praise to the God of seasons and of all they bring !) at 
our darling fire-side. 

Instead of Living Insects, with their triple transformations, Live Coals, with 
their interminable changes, are before us. Viewed as objects, they have long 
attracted our particular notice. Now we make them subjects, with a view to 
their notice by other people. 

As objects they are certainly not new, no newer than the first coal-fire ever 
kindled. But are they new even as subjects ? That also may be disputed or 
denied. " Everybody," says somebody, " has seen Faces in the Fire." Possi- 
bly, but everybody has not seen Faces taken from it. Everybody may have 
caught glimpses of glowing images in the chaos of the grate ; but it is not 
everybody, or we are much mistaken, who has seen them caught hold of, 
without burnt fingers, and committed incombustible to paper. 

Thus much, at all events, we can conscientiously affirm, that to the best of 



ACHETA'S PREFATORY PUFF. XI 

our belief, this is the first volume, save of smoke and flame, issued — we don't 
say ever, but in modern times, — from the hot-press of the grate. It may be 
otherwise. Book and picture making from the Fire may be no more a novelty 
in this day of new things, or old ones novel-ized, than the images and subjects 
which the fire makes.* Be this as it may, — be the present volume of a cha- 
racter hackneyed or original, — be its contents " good, bad, or indifferent," — 
there is one impression concerning them which we are particularly anxious 
to convey — the reader is entreated not to look upon this book as one leading 
to nothing beyond itself; as a volume of which the letterpress is simply to be read 
— the plates simply looked at — and there an end ! Do we then — as if we were 
really, instead of but in seeming, our own trumpeter, — desire for our own per- 
formance a greater measure of attention than books immeasurably its betters 
are apt to receive ? Far from it. Nay, we are almost diffident of claiming for 
what follows the dignity of a book at all. We feel ourselves at this moment as 
but prefacing a Preface — at most an Introduction, a Conductor, an Indicator, 
a Pioneer, a most imperfect Key — to untold treasures. It is, then, as either or 
all of these that we would have it used, applied as such to a " Book " which will 
be found in every sense deserving of the name. That is a book whose Author 



* The above preface, with the greater portion of what it prefaces, was written in and before 
the winter of i860, hence before the appearance of the Christmas number of the 'Illustrated 
London News' for 1861. In that there was, as many may remember, a poetical description, " by 
A. C. Rambo," of " What I saw in the Fire." With it was a clever illustration by Alfred 
Crowquill, in which, however, we fancied there was more of that lively artist than of Live Coal. 
From the verses we quote the following, because they answer curiously to what will be found a 
leading feature, however imperfectly rendered, in our Faces from the Fire, namely, their aptitude 
for being turned to artistic use. 

" Why, what a school of Art 
I now might start, 
With ever-changing studies new and good. 
And rule 
A school 
That owed its rise to penny bundle wood !" 



Xll ACHETA'S PREFATORY PUFF. 

is Nature ; whose " Illuminator " is Fire ; whose leaves are laminae (of coal or 
slate) ; whose characters are " live ;" whose characteristics are warmth, light, 
liveliness, strength, brightness ; whose subject is life ; whose pages are without 
end, bound in iron, but open to all. 



<u$^^jj^&yz 



IMAGERY OF "ACCIDENT," 

OR 

FORMS IN FRAGMENTS. 



Where is "Accident ?" and what ? if anything. — Order in all Things. — "Accident " as a Spoilt Child 
or Sportive Fairy. — " Shapes that Shape have none." — Playthings of "Accident," (the Child.) — "Ac- 
cident" (the Fairy) mocks Design. — Shaping of Land as left by Water. — Outline of the Earth. — Its 
Irregularity subservient to Uses. — Face of the Earth like nothing on the Face of it. — Exceptions to 
this rule of Non-resemblance. — Query for the Ingenious in " Final Causes." — " Accident" plays 
the Architect. — "The Cathedral Mount" (Vignette). — Mountain Chains. — The Temple of the 
Andes a Natural Model. — Of what Use ? — The Cathedral of Nature corroborates the Cathedral 
of Art. — Art-Lessons in Stones. — An Architectural Primer. — Forms (Architectural) in Rocky 
Fragments. — Suggestive Contributions from the Vegetable World. — The Stone Primer a torn one. 
— Could Architecture have learnt out of such a Book? — Bowers, not Buildings, belonged to 
Paradise. — Accident plays the Sculptor. — " II Leone," " the Bear-rock," "the Lions Face," the 
"Brown Cow," etc. — Simulative Forms of Fracture, not Shapes of Fancy. — The Use of Chance Re- 
semblances ? — Ordinary Shapings of Evident Use. — Extraordinary Apings seemingly Useless. — 
Natural Sculptures not so rare as rarely noticed. — First Observers of " the Imagery of Accident" 
(in Stone). — An Objection touching Image Worship. — "Accident" plays the Enamel Painter. 
— Picture Agates. — Fancy dives after a Subterranean Secret. — Anticipative Likenesses.- — More 
Guessing at "Final Causes." — A Startling Inference. — Imagery of "Accident" in the Sky. — 
Shadowy Legions routed by "General" Knowledge. — Sham Fights and Rifle Practice. — Rifle 
Balls. — "The Merry Dancers." — Science gives for what she takes. — Science has Pet-Shadows of 
her Own. — Cloud Pictures. — "Cloud-Land" of the Poet. — Imagery of C loud-Land. — Uses of being 
"in the Clouds." — The Farmer "in the Clouds." — The Miller "in the Clouds." — The Miser (if he 
could be) "in the Clouds." — The Mother "in the Clouds." — "Accident" seems at home amidst 
Ruins. — "Accident" plays the Limner on Old Walls. — Frescoes of "Accident" in the Deserted Man- 
sion. — Thistlefield Church. — A Sacred Interior. — A Frescoed Group. — Green Dragon and White- 
faced Fugitives. — Somnolent Churchwardens.- — -Teacup Imagery and Augury. — A Nursery Sibyl 
and Sibylline "Leaves." (Tail-piece.) — "Accident" chased to the Fire. — Is she there? 



IV. 




THE CATHEDRAL MOUNT, 



P. 6, 



IMAGERY OF " ACCIDENT. 



" Attentive to our trifling selves, 
From thence we plan the rule of all, 
Thus Nature with the fabled elves 
We rank, and these her 'sports' we call." 

Langhorne. 

" Accident " has a name everywhere — perhaps she has a place nowhere. We 
give her a person and a pronoun feminine, but only suppositiously, since she 
may prove a mere nonentity. In the moral world Accident is, confessedly, a 
shadow of a shade. In the material, she may be quite as unsubstantial. 
Throughout the kingdoms three (animal, vegetable, mineral), Design and 
Order occupy each particle and cell ; so that poor little Accident (assigning her 
a body) can scarcely have a house to live in, or a place to set her foot on. 
Supposing we had power, with Ariel — 

" To fly, 
To swim, to dive into the fire, to ride 
On the curl'd clouds," 

where, in the elements, should we be likely to set eyes or lay hands on Acci- 
dent, and be able to say, with assurance, "Ah ! here we've caught you" ? 

If Accident be ever really in presence, Disturbance, that " lord of (seem- 
ing) misrule," must be her hurlyburly usher. Where Disturbance is busy — 

B 2 



4 IMAGERY OF ACCIDENT. 

breaking up — breaking down — dispersing — dissolving — fusing — confusing — 
there (if anywhere) does Accident (if anything) seem busy too. But let Acci- 
dent be present, say at the rending of a rock, or the breaking of a pebble, or 
the splintering of a tree, there are marks of Order in their fractures. Or let 
Accident attend the fusion of a metal or the solution of a salt, there are forms 
of Order in the melting and dissolving. In short, if we ever catch a glimpse 
of Accident in the wide domain of Nature, she would seem to wear the shape 
of a sportive child, allowed to hang upon the skirts of mature, matron-like 
Design. Or, in her flitting forms, so evanescent and intangible, if not 
imaginary altogether, we may perhaps figure her best as a frolicsome fairy, 
permitted by higher powers (the great Genii of the elements) to meddle occa- 
sionally, but not to mar. 

If we thus allow to Accident a shape of her own (say, now, that of the 
spoilt child), we may also give her the credit or the blame of certain other 
shapes, or shapings, of accordant character. To her, at all events, are generally 
imputed those fragmentary forms " that form have none" — that represent 
nothing — seem meant for nothing — look like nothing — or only like the chips 
and filings of Nature's workshops. We may call them here the playthings — 
the broken playthings of " Accident," the capricious child. 

But occasionally — and less, then, in the character of a child than of a fairy 
— Accident would seem to meet and tap us on the shoulder, and to point in 
arch exultation to what she has been about. We start, and stand half amazed, 
half amused at what she shows us, claiming it, so saucily, as her own handi- 
work, — rather, her own imitative sport. It may happen to be the image of some 
object, perhaps wonderful, perhaps beautiful in itself, but much too common 
for our notice as a work of Design, while as a freak of Accident (or freak of 
Nature as we sometimes call it) it is much too singular to be overlooked. For 
examples, and to begin with an early, yet a late one, when our World, as we 
see it, was very young, though the Earth, and perhaps Accident (if ever born) 
were very old. Old or young, let us fancy her to have been present by per- 
mission, and by the side of Design ; while under guidance of the latter a grand 
work of shaping was going on. That was the shaping of the face of the land as 



ACCIDENT MOCKS DESIGN. $ 

its features were being formed in process, or by processes of time, above the 
face of the water. Careless Accident could never surely have been allowed by 
careful Design to meddle in a boundary question of such world-wide magni- 
tude. Her little shadowy finger could have played no part in tracing even 
the outline of a plan, which was the g?-ound-p\a,n of a residence for the Lord 
of Creation. And yet, as we see it now (completed for some unreckonable 
ages) Accident, as the child or as the fairy, would seem to say to us, " Come 
unto these yellow sands," or " Sit upon this shingly beach, and, where sea and 
land meet, look how I have been at play." And look we will, not though at 
such a modicum of wavering coast-line as can be discerned from the meeting 
margins of shore and sea ; nor yet from any eminence above them. Instead 
of that, let us take a general survey (in our atlas) of the contour of our Earth 
as settled, but for some trivial waverings, ever since Geography, or even Man, 
was born. See, in a chart of the hemispheres, its figure as a whole, with the 
figures, big and little, which go to make it up. Irregular, indescribable, and 
looking as if drawn at random ; they are the very shapes that " Accident " 
might seem very fairly to call her own. Yet in this harum-scarum-looking 
character of the Earth's outline is observable, even on the map, much more 
in the world it represents, a purpose or thousand purposes of Design. A few 
of them can be seen, even in the dark, by the light-house on the head-land, 
the lights in the ship at anchor in the harbour, and by the lights in the town 
that nestles in the bay. 

But our immediate concern, we must remember, is not with the shapings 
(real or imputed) of " Accident " in general, but with such of them as 
" happen " to resemble forms obviously of Design. The imagery of " Acci- 
dent" is our theme. It is a subject, confessedly rather vague and unsub- 
stantial, like "Accident" herself; nor may the term made use of for its 
designation prove in all cases quite applicable. However, let it stand, as 
descriptive in general of those sportive, freakish likenesses in things unlike, 
which, as similitudes, are deemed accidental, and at the same time called 
" fanciful." To return to our atlas and chart of the World, — its outline figures 
the Earth's face, and nothing else on the face of the Earth. Nay, but we are 



6 IMAGERY OF ACCIDENT. 

not perfectly correct : there is that great continent which prefigured a 
" shoulder of mutton," while as yet, in all probability, muttons had never 
bleated ; that lesser continent, in the outline of which was shaped (after an 
unshapely fashion) " the human form divine " of its future inhabitants ; and 
that narrow peninsula which furnished the pattern of a boot before there was 
a leg of man to wear one. Shall we ask the ingenious at assignment of " final 
causes " the " end " of these singular configurations ? Were they designed 
(the boot especially) to come in aid, nowadays, of young geographers with 
halting memories ? or were they intended to meet an aptitude in us children 
of a larger growth for the catching of rude resemblances, or the combining of 
shapeless fragments into shapely forms ? We cannot say positively that they 
were. And if not designed for the above or other purpose, we may call, we 
suppose, these primitive patterns cut by water out of land, or by land out of 
water, primitive types of the " Imagery of Accident." 

And Accident can be busy, it would seem, at her imitative shaping, — more 
properly, her shapes to be imitated, — amidst mountain summits as well as by 
the level shore. We read, for instance, of a high point in the chain of the 
Cordilleras, which from its perfect resemblance to the body and spires of a 
church, has obtained the name of " the Cathedral Mount." It is so lofty as 
to be seen at a distance of twenty leagues. Now suppose a traveller on whom 
has burst unexpectedly, and for the first time, a view of this stupendous 
structure, — image of a structure we should rather say. He takes it, at the 
moment, for a work of Man, consequently of Design, but presently, its 
gigantic proportions and correspondent surroundings undeceive him, and he 
finds it to be a work of Nature, — rather, one of Nature's "sports," an accidental 
freak, or freak of Accident. On nearer approach, and from an altered point 
of view, the Cathedral vanishes from the sight of its admiring beholder; it does 
not, like Aladdin's Palace, leave a void, but in place of the seeming fabric 
with its grand symmetric show, stands an ordinary group of mountain masses 
and rocky peaks. All around reigns Confusion, or to call Confusion by 
another name, over all reigns Accident. One could almost fancy her perched, 
in her form of fairy, on a pinnacle of porphyry or granite (one of the seeming 



THE TEMPLE OF THE ANDES. 7 

spires of that sham Cathedral), while she jeers at the traveller for having taken 
her imposing edifice for a work of Design. Yet who can tell ? the traveller's 
first impression might have been in so far the right one ; his real delusion 
might have come after, in having assigned to Accident any share in produc- 
tion of the magnificent object presented to his sight. Nobody would venture 
to declare that the links of a mountain chain only happened to be thrown 
up in connection. Looking, for instance, at these same Cordilleras as a file 
of steeple-hatted granite Grenadiers, nobody, we suppose, would say of them 
that they took posts to form a cordon without express command. " Of course 
not " says everybody (with a few atheistical exceptions), " of course not," 
because a mountain chain, however irregular, and whatever the disturbance 
through which it was originally wrought, is evidently a work of Design, — proved 
to be such by a variety of important uses. But with the Mountain Cathedral, 
or the rocky masses and pinnacles that are so combined as to look like one, it 
is altogether different : these, as regards what they represent, are clearly (so 
most people would affirm) a mere sport of Accident ; they have only been so 
tossed up that they happen, from a certain point of view, to mimic a glorious 
house built to God, — a sublime object, truly, in the few favoured eyes permitted 
to behold it, but for use, or uses, not pretending to a single one. Look, in 
imagination, at that colossal pile. It is founded on its own base, a " rock of 
ages," but, as if too proud to touch the earth, it wears the appearance of being 
raised upon a platform of cloud. See its snow-clad roofs and pinnacles glittering 
in the sun, or the moonlight, or the lightning flash, and confess it to present a 
spectacle too glorious to depict in colours or in words. Then even to the 
painter and the poet, what's its use ? But the architect ? might not this grand 
model of nature have been designed to supply him with a pattern for the triumph 
of his art ? Why, no ; it was certainly exhibited for countless ages before archi- 
tect was living, but then it could hardly have been observed, or observable till 
after the erection of sacred edifices, its outward resemblance to which first drew 
attention to its singularity of form. What then, as an architectural model, was 
its use? Well, what's the use of asking the above, or a thousand other utili- 
tarian questions ? The matter-of-fact people who most love to put them, are so 



8 IMAGERY OF ACCIDENT. 

apt to stop one's mouth and stifle one's conjectural replies by snowballs, — the 
snow they are made of never collected on tops of mountains, on the earth, or 
in the moon. We shall venture, notwithstanding, to suggest a possible use of 
that superb structure, the Cathedral Mount. May it not have been designed 
to put, as it were, a stamp of verity on some of the noblest of our works, as 
devoted to the very noblest of our purposes ? Standing in solemn grandeur 
betwixt earth and heaven, it would seem an evidence to sight, that in erection 
of her sacred buildings the hand of Art has hit upon the true. She has pro- 
duced, without knowing it, resemblances of a type temple reared by Nature to 
her God. In the same striking object there would appear another fact, or at 
the least a likely conclusion, made palpable to sight, — it would seem to show 
that the art of building had been mainly led, as it were, up a flight of stone 
steps to the eminence it has attained. In stones, there may have been art lessons 
as well as " sermons," and we (biggest of the building animals) may have 
drawn from them (perhaps without a thought of it) not only material for work, 
but instructions for working. An architectural Primer might have been 
composed of natural or fragmentary forms in unhewn stone. The builder 
may never have had opportunity to profit by a natural model like our temple 
of the Andes, but its component parts, or the like of them, have been for ever 
presented to the eye. No need to visit the Cordillera to see the rock of 
massive body, squared by fracture, or rounded (perhaps dome-like) by attrition, 
— the splintery pinnacles, the arches, pillars, pilasters, and buttresses which sup- 
port, or seem supporting, their superincumbences of stone, — with these, the 
unwrought surfaces, smooth as tool could make them, or rough in rilievi and 
intagli, rudely resembling the labours of the chisel. Thus has Nature, by 
Design or Accident, furnished stone models (not too imperfect for suggestion) 
of all the forms that make up, in skilful combination, the triumph of the 
constructive art. Our obligation to the vegetable world is generally allowed 
for the suggestive contributions to architecture of the over-arching bough, the 
pillar-like trunk, the ornamental leaf. From the mineral may not the same 
Art have borrowed as much and more ? " No," says an objector, " the models 
supposed to have been furnished by the vegetable kingdom were living shapes 



ACCIDENT PLAYS THE SCULPTOR. 9 

of beauty and perfection, while the best that could have been offered by the 
mineral, were hard and rugged forms of fracture, — exemplars, if of anything, 
of imperfection only." Well, true it is that amongst rugged mountains and 
shattered rocks, marks of disruption and disorder are prevailing stamps upon 
the works of Nature. These are impressed upon her broken scenery, on each 
of its features, and on every the smallest fragment which goes to constitute the 
grand yet imperfect whole. " Then a likely matter," you will tell us, that 
dame Nature should have set up a school of art, even an infant one, with such 
a stock-in-trade, — such torn primers, such dog's-eared copies, — with " Acci- 
dent " too (that careless jade, and nothing better !) for assistant, at her right- 
hand ! To what could she have pointed, amidst the disorder round her, as 
patterns for orderly edifices, or parts of edifices to be reared by studious 
Design ? Least of all, was she competent, or likely, so circumstanced, to have 
contributed a stone model, or even a model stone, towards a house of devotion 
to the All-perfect One ? Yes, as a temple to be reared by his aU-wrcperfect 
creatures, of whom and their highest aspirations, the rugged mountain and 
shattered rock, imperfect in their grandeur, grand in their imperfections, are 
not unfitting representatives. But for disturbance and disruption there had 
been no " Cathedral Mount." But for sin and decadence there had, perhaps, 
been no cathedral. Bowers, not buildings, belonged to Paradise. 

If Nature be acknowledged as an architect, or architectural teacher, of the 
primeval order, shall "Accident" be disclaimed or recognized as her playful 
coadjutor ? Be this as it may, let us see if we can discern the same question- 
able agent (or her semblance), still, by permission, associate with Nature, in the 
allied character of sculptor ; for this we must keep still to rocks and mountains. 
Of these, many are distinguished by popular names, which prove their having 
presented to the popular eye a resemblance in form to some other object dissi- 
milar in all besides. There are, for instances, " II Leone " of Corsica, the rock 
which, in likeness of a lion couchant, guards the port of Bastia ; the " Bear 
Rock," off the Straits of Messina ; the " Lion's Face " (now effaced), on a 
cliff in the Scottish Highlands, and a mountain (in the Highlands also) which 
bears the name, doubtless from having borne the aspect, of a " Brown Cow." 

c 



io IMAGERY OF ACCIDENT. 

These and the like resemblances are called "imaginary" and "fanciful." Thus 
our right royal Laureate writes of 

" The face that men 
Shape to their fancy's eye from broken rocks, 
On some cliff's side." 

But Imagination prefers usually to create her somethings out of " airy 
nothings," and Fancy to weave her varicoloured webs out of flimsier material 
than granite or mountain-limestone. The images in question are, it is true, 
not often discernible as such, except from certain points of view ; but this mili- 
tates nothing against their reality, as objects of sight, a reality recognized by 
common consent; they are therefore not forms of fancy, but simply forms of 
fracture, which happen, let us say, to have been invested, through that hap- 
hazard operation, with rudely simulative shapes. Then here again would seem 
to step in Accident, or the shadow to which that name is given. " To be 
sure ! " cries our wise friend Utility ; " for to what on earth but Accident 
would you attribute chance resemblances like these ? In the first place, these 
likenesses are too infrequent to come of Design ; in the next, there's not the 
slightest use in them ! What's the use, for instance, of a rock, any more than of 
an ass, pretending to look like a lion, or threatening, in the shape of a bear, to 
give a bear's hug to the mariner who should venture to embrace it ? Such 
toys of Nature, or of Accident, may afford a moment's surprise, or a nine 
minutes' wonder to the childish or child-like voyager, but what's their use f 
One can see a use — uses many, such as of gentle irrigation and protection, in the 
prevailing form of the conical mountain, also in the general formlessness of the 
fragmentary rock, with its ledges, and chasms, and crannies, resting-places and 
hiding-places, and nurseries for living creatures and vegetable life. But where 
the conceivable good of those simulative shapings and apings which rock and 
mountain happen occasionally to exhibit ? Only occasionally, — this their rarity 
almost a proof in itself that such fantastic resemblances were never meant ; that 
these sculptural forms of Nature or Accident were never intended to suggest the 
sculptures of Art or Design." And why not ? this their very singularity being 
calculated to challenge notice. But is this kind of imagery so very rare as are 



FIRST OBSERVERS OF THE IMAGERY OF ACCIDENT. II 

the few notable or noted of its examples ? Certainly not ; for in innumerable 
rocks and fragments, " old as the hills," to which they may belong, there are, 
beyond doubt, a variety of likenesses of created things, only wanting to be seen 
(from certain points) to be recognized as such. These would be sculpture-like 
resemblances, rude similitudes of statuary or surface-carving. 

Now, suppose a prison, not of brick or hewn stone, but of natural rock, a 
solitary prisoner immured within, shut out from all but light — a prisoner's 
niggard share of it, — he, assuredly, would soon discover, not as shaped merely 
to his fancy's eye, but as really visible to his restricted sight, specimens few or 
many of the imagery in question. Faces, with perhaps figures, of stone 
gaolers, " hard and still," might be the first to stand out, sharply prominent, 
before the shrinking captive ; then in the natural sculptures of the walls he 
would discern softer images, albeit, like the last, of stone; he would see (there's 
not a doubt of it!) some dear familiar face or faces, and in the trickling mois- 
ture of that drear dungeon, he would seem to see them weeping, because they 
can never look on his again. " Yes," says the denier of real presence in the 
objects we are talking of, " all these stony resemblances, and a thousand more, 
might appear actual to an unfortunate inmate of a solitary cell, but they would 
be as completely phantoms of his fevered imagination, as if they were conjured 
out of nothing ! " Nay, not so, for there is scarcely, we believe, a square 
yard in a thousand of rock or rocky wall which does not bear sculptured on 
its face, faces which would befit " stern gaolers " to a T! — not to speak of 
others appropriate to people of less stony reputation. In the case supposed, 
all the work left for the prisoner's fond or fearful fancy would be to clothe 
with personal resemblance the cold bare images really before his eye. 

Next to the captive in his dungeon, the hermit, self-imprisoned in his rocky 
cell, and the monk in his cloister, were likely to be earliest observers of the 
works of Nature or sports of Accident in the sculptural line ; either or all of 
these may have been of the first imitators of these seeming imitations which 
were, perhaps, the first prompters to imitative practice. Hence such primitive 
models may have had more to do with the birth and infancy of Art, than Art in 
her adolescence might be disposed to allow. 

c 2 



12 IMAGERY OF ACCIDENT. 

Here it may be asked, how could Nature or Accident have been permitted to 
teach what was forbidden by Nature's God, i. e. the making of graven images, 
and other likenesses of things in heaven and earth and water, — that step on 
the threshold of idolatry, so speedily overstepped ? If this objection be allowed 
at all, it is one of general application to the imitative arts, let them have origi- 
nated how they may. 

If we give credit to " Accident " for having played at architecture amidst 
mountain summits, and at sculpture amidst fragments of rock, we can hardly 
dispute her having tried her hand at painting before rock or mountain had 
received their names. Cabinetted for countless ages have been certain minia- 
tures in stone, now brought partially to light, — " Accident" their apparent dis- 
coverer, as if proud of showing us choice productions wherein she would seem 
to have had a considerable share. Since thus exhibited, we have placed them 
in our catalogue of Nature's curiosities, and call them Agate Pictures, or Picture 
Agates. The poet, one of whose verses heads our chapter, pays them the tri- 
bute of two more, in which, by the way, he denies to Accident the slightest 
agency in producing these gems of " The Stone Cabinet,'' thus : — 

" Helvetia's rocks, Sabrina's waves 
Still many a shining pebble bear, 
Where Nature's studious hand engraves 
The perfecty"o?7H, and leaves it there." 

Well, on this subject, as on every other, the man of rhymes can venture 
further in assertion than the man of science, who, as concerns the formation of 
agates, can give us little more than guesses ; so let Fancy indulge in a guess or 
two also on this subterranean secret. Suppose Nature, directed by Design, 
busy in the chemical process of making one of these half-pellucid gems. Be- 
hold her in her fire-lit laboratory, fusing her flint, and mingling coarser mat- 
ters, earthy and metallic, in the molten mass. On the disposition of these 
little opacities within the transparent fluid, the colouring of the future pebble 
will depend. But does Design concern herself about the exact shapes or pat- 
terns this colouring will producer It would hardly seem so, for in the melting 
and mingling of those diverse particles, " black, white, and grey," she would 



PICTURE AGATES. 1 3 

seem to give them free permission to " mingle as they may," — to leave them, 
in short, to be the sport of Accident. Accordingly, on pebble after pebble, 
there is nothing to be seen but Accident's own fantastic figuring ; nothing but 
clouding, confusion, motley medleys, random ramifications. But now comes 
an exception to this non-imitative rule. Here, in the compass of a pebble, we 
have the representation of a perfect tree ; again, upon another, the reflection of 
a landscape ; on a third, appears the exact image of a man ; on a fourth, a 
complete group of human figures ; on a fifth, a set of numerals making up a 
date ! Now has Design, or Nature working designedly to make pictures, here 
interposed ? Has she laid a finger on the parti-coloured particles, erst so errant, 
and have they arranged themselves, under her guidance, into definite forms — 
figures of things and creatures which were to follow ages after their formation : 
Those Picture Agates are in truth very curious productions ! Most curious in 
this, — that they should present images of objects so far distant in the prospective 
order of creation ! Curious that these should have had their portraitures thus 
taken by anticipation, enamelled, framed, glazed in crystal, and locked up for an 
incalculable period in the subterranean cabinet ! It would almost look as if 
" coming entities" were like " coming events," to be made darkly discernible in 
their shadows " cast before" — yet too darkly in these hidden gems, for any eye 
that we know of, to discern them ? But the end or use, if any, of these remark- 
able resemblances? For these we must refer again to the ingenious in final causes. 
Perhaps they will tell us that the likenesses in question were traced by Design, 
or Nature, under her direction, as trials of her hand, — first drafts or impressions, 
on stone, of forms to be moulded thereafter in the clay that was to breathe ; or 
that these little pictures were designed simply to excite our admiration, or that 
they were intended expressly to " inspire the imitative mind," to give us a first 
notion of copying from Nature, by seeing her occasionally copy from herself. 
Perhaps, but if she copied from herself by using as " copies " these stone pic- 
tures, hence follows a somewhat startling inference. The human form designed 
on agate could not possibly have been drawn after the figure of a man ; there- 
fore, man's figure must have been formed after a design on agate ! 

A host of fantastic imagery performs its evolutions on that glorious field, 



14 IMAGERY OF ACCIDENT. 

the firmament of heaven ; its legions for ever yielding and fleeing, though 
for ever reinforced by new levies from the meteor and the cloud. In the van 
of these used to march the great meteoric army of the North ; but it is broken 
now, together with its shadowy allies, before the onslaught of Science, and 
advance of " General " Knowledge. The Boreal Lights are still wheeling and 
crackling in the northern sky, but perhaps nowhere now, and in no " seasons '' 
save those of Thomson, do these — 

" Fierce fiery warriors fight upon the clouds, 
In ranks and squadrons, and right form of war." 

Nor perhaps now in any "lines" but his, are to be seen the waving banners, 
white or crimson ; nor heard the sharp rattle of the musketry of this light 
infantry and cavalry, or cavalry and infantry of Light. So far, all the better ! 
We have enough (Heaven help and mend us !) of warfare, real and mimic, upon 
terra Jirma ! No need of marchings and counter-marchings, sham fights and 
rifle practice in the clouds ! And enough, too, we have of " balls," rifle and 
other, without caring much to " keep up " the ball of " the merry dancers " in 
the celestial salons of the North, illumined nightly by the reveller's own brilliant 
dresses. These are pretty enough, but as if they were dirty cobwebs, nothing 
better ! Science has nearly swept them, together with the shining mail of the 
" legions," from the northern sky. With her implement of dispersion, her 
long-handled besom, she has cleared whole heaps of rubbish from the " houses " 
of the heavens, as well as from the " house of mind." But amongst this 
time-collected refuse were some glittering gems dropped by Fancy ; and not 
a few such, worth preserving, used to sparkle on the darker clothing of im- 
puted terror, with which Ignorance invested the imagery of the sky. As 
regards these aerial shapes, as well as a multitude of others, it must, however, 
be confessed that Science has not taken without giving, — not only of the solid, 
but the less substantial. She puts to flight the shadows of Ignorance, but 
sometimes supplies their places with pet shadows of her own. Of these, some 
are so grand, others so beautiful or pleasing, that one can't help wishing them 
to prove, as perhaps they will, shadows of realities, — long reaching, and disco- 
vered from afar. We have seen how she has swept the sky, and almost swept 



CLOUD PICTURES. 15 

away, not its real imagery, but the false clothing with which it was used to 
be invested by superstitious Fear and Fancy. Together with her " besom " of 
destruction, she has swept it with her telescope, to stud it with innumerable 
worlds ; and she has swept it again with, what in truth she has little business 
to handle, a ballet of feathers from Imagination's wing. The mist of mystery 
and remoteness, half unfolded by the telescope, is brushed away entirely on 
its application, and lo ! even the telescopic worlds are furnished with po- 
pulations like themselves, beyond computation, beyond conception, but not 
beyond description! What, in comparison with creative "givings" such as 
these, the destructive "takings" from us, and from the firmament, of a scanty 
assemblage of those "wondrous shapes" resolved at the touch of Science 
into simple flashes of electric light ? 

But it is in the ordinary, rather than extraordinary aspect of the heavens 
that celestial imagery most prevails. It is really discernible in the combinations 
of the fleecy cloud, if not in the evolutions of the fiery meteor. Cloud pictures 
are generally hung, like other fine ones by the hanging committee ! too high 
for common observation. But there are exceptional circumstances under 
which even the beauty and height of these " water-colour " productions do not 
entirely preclude their being looked at ! Most of all favourable to their notice 
is the monotony of protracted shipboard. Then to the eye of the idle voy- 
ager, wearied of sea and sky, sky and sea, sea and sky, (nothing else in all the 
world to look at !) it becomes gradually apparent that in the sky itself, mir- 
rored on its face, there is often something, many somethings, which because 
they are always fleeing afford objects of "pursuit." If the voyager has been a 
traveller, the illuminated scroll overhead serves to recall, quite as well perhaps 
as his sketch-book, the objects he has seen in many lands. Cathedrals in decay, 
castles in ruins, purple mountains, fantastic trees, rugged rocks, and shining 
rivers ; great glowing images (what if they are broken ?) of kings and priests, 
and prophets, in flowing beards, and robes as flowing, — purple, crimson, gold, and 
glittering white. And great grey shadows, broken enough, too, of dark-faced 
men and women in a beggarly array of torn and tattered cloud. And faces he 
sees, with bits of figures, of queer people, and comical and wonderful creatures, 



1 6 IMAGERY OF ACCIDENT. 

matches of museum curiosities, and monstrosities in cloud, to be matched by- 
nothing else, or only by phantoms night-born, in a hammock, of ship pork 
and damaged biscuit. Now, doesn't the sea-bound idler see enough in the 
clouds to make him a poet ? And what, pray, says our friend Utility, is the 
use of that ? 

To the poet, ready-made, the sky is a favourite book. Shakespeare had an 
eye, of course, for its embellishments : — 

" Sometimes we see a cloud that's dragonish, 
A vapour, sometimes like a bear or liou, 
A tower' d citadel, a pendent rock, 
A forked mountain, or blue promontory, 
With trees upon't, that nod unto the world, 
And mock our eyes with air." 

And Coleridge took delight in the same dissolving pictures : — 

" Oh, it is pleasant, with a heart at ease, 
Just after sunset, or by moonlit skies, 
To make the shifting clouds be what you please, 

Or let the easily persuaded eyes 
Own each quaint likeness issuing from the mould 

Of a friend's fancy, or with head bent low 
And cheek aslant, see rivers flow of gold, 

'Twixt crimson banks, and then a traveller go 
From mount to mount, through cloud-land — gorgeous land ! " 

" Coloured eyes," so says the proverb, " make coloured objects," and the 
" cloud-land" of the poet is something of a dream-land too, coloured as warmly 
by glowing imagination as by glowing sunsets. But even to eyes as free from 
the prismatic hues of fancy as " the best pebble spectacles " from material tints, 
there is never a sky, if it be but a cloudy one, which is not overspread by fleet- 
ing imagery, sometimes of grand, and as often of very common things. There 
are cloud-pictures a la Teniers, as well as a la Claude and Salvator, — subjects 
suitable to every taste ; and if people in general would only look upwards a 
little oftener, raising their eyes from dusty earth to dewy skies, they might find 
refreshment, if nothing better, in noting the forms and fashions of the changing 
vapours, — a cure, perhaps, for " vapours " of a worser sort. So let any one bold 



USES OF BEING "IN THE CLOUDS.'' 17 

enough to laugh at being laughed at for being " in the clouds," amuse himself 
now and then in chasing (hem as they chase each other. It would make, at all 
events, a little change from pursuit of shadows upon earth. Something of the 
earthy would be sure, though, to cling to his contemplation of the clouds. He 
would be sure to lay hold on some curious resemblances of terrestrial shapes. 
That he couldn't help ! And, what perhaps he couldn't help either, the first 
thing to catch his eye, or be caught by it, would be an image of some object 
associate with his leading employment or most engrossing thought. The 
farmer, for instance, if he would now and then look upward from his furrows, 
would be sure to see in the clouds, silvery and golden, likenesses of his fleecy 
flocks and golden sheaves : thence, possibly, might bethink him, more than 
has been his wont, of the " high and lofty One," who blesseth the flock and 
herd, and giveth of increase to the harvest. 

The miller, on some sabbath rest from grinding, might, in like manner, 
discern in the heapings of the silvered clouds a similitude of the sacks of corn, 
the gmt to his mill, piled in abundance on his mill-floor : and then he might 
be reminded, from looking up at them, instead of down, of Him who " bringeth 
the winds out of his treasures," and " holdeth the waters in the hollow of his 
hand," and but for whose mighty help " the sound of the grinding " would 
speedily " wax low ! " 

The miser, — only he, to be sure, is never likely to look upwards ! — would be 
certain, if he did, or could, to perceive — images first perceptible to him amongst 
the gilded clouds ! — semblances of sacks also, not of corn or flour, but bursting 
with money, the yellow gold shining from within. Wouldn't he watch them 
with a gloating and a greedy eye, till, all of a sudden, they break, and disappear! 

Last, and more likely than either of the above to be looking upwards, is the 
mother, — she, from whom some darling of her heart has been taken, perhaps 
lately, or perhaps (all the same to her !) long, long ago. Those fleecy clouds 
of spring, so soft and bright and flowing, only answer vaguely, at the first, to 
recollections never faded from her mind ; then, correspondent shapes grow 
apparent in the sky, of soft, full cheeks, and flowing curls, golden, and gilded 
by a sunny smile ; and she looks, at last, upon " a perfect image" in the 

D 



1 8 IMAGERY OF ACCIDENT. 

clouds. It soon fades, but not before it has given her happy re-assurance, as 
if by an angel's message, that there is an angel of her own awaiting her in 
heaven. 

Now, with a fall from the celestial, let us notice " Accident " (her agency 
allowed) at other of her undesigned resemblances on terra Jirma. She is often 
pleased to dash off her random likenesses in materials provided jointly by 
Nature and Art ; these are lavishly supplied her in our dwellings, premises, and 
precincts, where, on being introduced by her ragged z/?/gentlemanly ushers, 
Neglect and Decay, she appears to make herself exceedingly at home. Where 
Neglect and Decay are present, — say upon some ruined fabric, — Accident seems 
perched upon its falling fragments, to heap them in " confusion worse con- 
founded." Now and then though, as in those parts of Nature's dominions 
where she would seem allowed the widest latitude, Accident appears to quarrel 
with her capricious self, and to copy (of course undesignedly) a production of 
Design. There is an instance of this sort, or there was, in the ruins of an 
old castle, which, viewed from a certain point, presented the seated image, even 
to the judicial wig, of a robed judge ; his seat of judgment composed, like him- 
self, of mouldering stones (were they symbolic of musty statutes ?), and both 
elevated (warning beacon !) on the Castle Hill.* 

But Accident, in her simulative shapings of this description, is much more 
apt to play the limner than the sculptor. On damp and crumbling plaster 
and rotten boarding she would seem to revel in fantastic imagery, — her colours, 
mould and mildew, moss and weather-stain. By help of these, she depicts on 
the " fool's paper "-}- of wall and paling all sorts of real and imaginable things, 
only nothing half so unreal and deceptive as what is commonly displayed on 
like surfaces in pictures and printings of Design. Few can have failed to 
bestow passing notice on these frescoes of Accident ; let those who say there 
are none such noticeable be shut up (best one of them at a time) in some 
dilapidated interior ; let him be alone with the spiders, their tapestry all the 

* The remains of Hastings Castle presented, at one time, such an image. 

t According to an Italian proverb, "A wall is the 'fool's paper' whereon to scribble 
fancies." — (Fuller). 



A SACRED INTERIOR AND ITS FRESCOES. 1 9 

hangings, in the family room of a family mansion, the home of a family long 
departed and dispersed, and there, upon the wall, where their shadows used to 
play in the sun and fire-light, and play, and dance too, in the wax-light blaze, 
he must see a family picture frescoed by Accident, assisted by Decay. Its 
subject will be, more than likely, a " Dance of Death," quite as significant as 
the hand of Holbein ever drew. Even Accident, or her semblance, can startle 
us by picture-" writing on the wall." 

The first time that we ever paid particular attention to these freaks of fresco- 
painting, was in our childhood ; the first place where they attracted our notice 
was (must we confess it ?) in a church. It was in the church of " our village," 
the village of Thistlefield, wherein, as with a thousand others in the days when 
we were young, Damp and Decay, Mould and Mildew were the chief occupants 
of the pews, preached silent homilies from the pulpit, and reigned rampant, in 
all imaginable shapes, upon the walls. Their ancient dominion was, it is true, 
disturbed, — in fact, overwhelmed, — at distant intervals, by the plasterer's brush 
and sweeping inundations of white or yellow wash ; but, however extinguished 
for awhile, that Imagery of Accident would for ever reappear, like ghosts re- 
fusing to be laid, or bloodstains refusing to be washed out. How well do we 
remember that sacred interior, both in its common aspect of " green and 
yellow melancholy," tears of dampness trickling down its face, and when 
(rare occasions) its features were hidden, as by a pocket-handkerchief of spot- 
less white. We have spoken in a general way of the " face" or faces of the 
walls, but it was with certain faces upon them that we used to exchange (so it 
"seemed to us) furtive glances every sabbath-day, excepting of course those few 
"Whit-" (or White) Sundays which followed on the washings. There was in 
particular a remarkable group, both of faces and figures, which, as if by some 
peculiar fascination, was for ever drawing our eyes from off our Prayer-book. 
The first picture of a dragon we ever saw was in the family Bible, over against 
a red-lined, red-lettered page of "Revelations;" the next was on the parti- 
coloured church-wall, just opposite our .standing on a mouldy hassock in the 
family pew. There it was, a great, gaping, greedy-looking monster, imaged 
in blackish-green mould upon the whited wall. And if ever we saw a pair ot 

D 2 



20 IMAGERY OF ACCIDENT. 

white-faced fugitives fleeing from the gulf of a dragon's open jaws, it was 
as depicted, white upon a green ground, in a contiguous portion of the 
same humid surface. 

We have sometimes wondered since, whether that piece of portentous 
imagery ever attracted the notice of any eye but our own in the sparse con- 
gregation of Thistlefield Church ? The respectable churchwardens, whose 
eyes, when open, were always, to all appearance, fixed on their books or their 
minister, were, one would suppose, the last people in the world to let them 
wander profanely after " images." If, however, those drowsy guardians of the 
church's purity ever did perceive those awful shadows, — which, by the way, 
looked them also in the face, — some dreamy consciousness might have come 
across them that the green dragon personified the devil, or, the same to them, 
a new order of things, the pale-faced fugitives none other than themselves. 
No wonder, in that case, at their spasmodic efforts (sole attempts at church 
renovation) to put out with whitewash those frescoed apparitions, — prophetic 
messengers to warn them, as if by hand-writing on the wall, that their reign of 
somnolent neglect was coming to an end. 

Accident at play with floating particles of congou or souchong, turns them 
into imagery within the circle of a teacup. Imagery this, to which augury 
once belonged — tea- table augury,— almost as obsolete now as its classic pattern 
and precursor of the altar. With some of us, however, the scroll of memory 
is quite long enough, if we would but confess it, to display, at its commencing 
end, some pictured reminiscence associate with sibylline tea-leaves and a sibyl 
expositor. It assumes, most likely, the figure of some nursery Pythoness, of 
the ancient type, her tripod, with a leg extra, the nursing chair.* She is twirl- 
ing the cup of fortune, or giving forth her oracles from configurations dimly 
discernible within. One individual of this departed race we can vividly and 
fondly recall : she was a faithful servant, if not always a faithful prophetess, now 
long silent in the grave. Good, conscientious soul ! how careful was she in her 
significant notices of teacup Imagery, to point out to our dawning observation 
only such innocent images as consorted with our innocent age : these were, for 

* See Tail-piece. 



SIBYLLINE LEAVES. 2 1 

the most part, white lambs and doves pastured and wooded in hyson-green 
(nurse took a mixture), or, at worst, nothing more wicked than great ugly 
crows feathered in congou-black, and bearing in their talons little stalkish stiff- 
backed children who wouldn't say their prayers. Our sibyl had, however, a 
second most attentive listener and devout believer in her prophetic expositions, 
— that was the nursemaid, and for her exclusive benefit she would sometimes 
exhibit, with mysterious commentary, and indulgent, patronizing smile, certain 
other hieroglyphics of a less immaculate description. With these we, of course, 
had, or .should have had, nothing in the world to do, but, for that very reason, 
we soon learnt to distinguish them above all others. We would often, for 
instance, hurry the tip of our little fore-finger over effigy of bird and beast, 
and of infantile subjects, delinquent or meritorious, to point it steadily at a 
thin dark gentleman, in stalks of tea, kneeling, on his stilts, before a fair young 
lady, in leaf-dust embroidery of the same. " Bless the child ! now isn't it a 
quick un?" would then exclaim the alarmed prophetess, suddenly withdraw- 
ing the cup, and drowning the objects of our precocious perception with hot 
water from the kettle. Dear old friend ! gone to the reward of her faithful 
stewardship, much we owed her, and much we owe her still : this, not the 
least, that in having taught us to see, sometimes, figures in the teacUp, she must 
have first awoke in us the faculty (now revived from a long slumber) of seeing, 
always, " Faces in the Fire." Perhaps, now we think of it, old nurse and the 
nursery teacup had something to do also with our early and ill-timed observa- 
tion of church-wall images, the damp dragon at their head. The gift of 
vision which made those fantastic frescoes apparent, was certainly a question- 
able benefit as concerns, at all events, the instance of the dragon's apparition. 
Even that, though, we might possibly have turned to better account than we 
did, as well as a thousand early perceptions (unimproved) of better things. 

Well, " Accident," that fairy-like phantom, or that something or nothing 
that bears the name, has led us a pretty chase, — perhaps a wild-goose one, after 
all ! Glimpses we have undoubtedly seemed to catch of her ; that, not only 
amidst those random-looking combinations which would seem, on the face ot 
them, her very own ; but also as the seeming producer of forms in frag- 



2 2 IMAGERY OF ACCIDENT. 

merits, chance resemblances to shapes, come indisputably of Design. We have 
pursued her (never quite certain of her presence) from a sphere of the widest 
circumference to one of the most contracted ; from the grandest to the most 
grotesque of her questionable vagaries ; from the shapings of an earth, resi- 
duum of subsiding seas, to the shaping of tiny men and women in the 
residuum of exhausted teacups. Having thus tracked, or tried to track her, 
to the fireside, we shall plunge after her (all but bodily) into the Fire. In its 
chaotic realms of light and shadow we may find her reigning, a very Titania 
or Queen Mab, or, just as likely, may find reason to deny her supremacy, if 
not her presence, in the grate. At all events, we shall discern within the bars 
a vivid Imagery, to which all that above spoken of is cold, lifeless, imperfect, 
and infrequent. 




THE NURSERY SYBIL 






THE FIRE IN A NEW LIGHT. 



What is Fire? — Fire pre-eminently a Source of Life. — An Emblem of Life. — Stages of Life and 
Fire Correspond. — Functions of Life represented bi/ Fire. — States of Fire analogous to States of 
Mind. — The "Professions" of Life symbolized by Fire. — Fire, a Grand Repository of Types and 
Figures. — The Fire of the Hearth. — What it is. — The Fireside a Winter Garden. — A Helicon and 
Parnassus in the Grate. — A Vital Element of Fire as yet ignored. — Imagery of the Grate. — Live 
Coals and Faces in the Fire. — The Fire a Household God and Household Slave. — The Fire in a 
New Light. — The Fire a "Good Master" of Art. — A Wondrous Oversight. — The Adam of Art. — 
The Oldest of the Old Masters, and the First of Modern Artists. — The only Legitimate Art Idol. 
— A Title to Immortality swallowed up of Life. — Anticipated Atonement for astounding Neglect. — 
Fiery Genius under non-appreciation. — Burning on, calmly brilliant. — Growing dull and low. — 
Fretting and Fuming. — Rising superior to Neglect. — A Temporary Taking Down. — The "Art Idol" 
an Art Teacher. — Art Schools for Everybody. — An Affiche. — Fire in Art, and Art in Fire. — A 
Flaming Prospectus. — A Curiosity of its Kind. 













- 



25 



THE FIRE IN A NEW LIGHT. 



" Hail, active Nature's watchful life and health, 
Her joy and ornament and wealth ! 
Hail to thy husband Heat and thee ! 
Thou the world's beauteous bride, the lusty bridegroom he !" 

Cowley. 

" By nature's aid let art supply 

With light and heat our little sphere ; 
Rouse, rouse the fire, and heap it high, 
Light up an ' Exhibition' there !" 

Cowley's verse, addressed to Light and Heat, separately, applies almost as well 
to Fire, — light, and heat, in conjunction. But how more particularly shall we 
describe fire ? Science tells us but by halves. Science may pronounce it 
a fluid, solar, electric, or distinct from each ; but, after all, fire is a source 
and combination of light and heat, about which philosophers as well as 
poets, the learned as well as the simple, must confess themselves somewhat in 
the dark. 

There is, however, no obscurity attached to certain properties or attributes 
of fire ; and of these, one in particular is conspicuous as its parental sun at un- 
clouded noon. This is, that, in being a source of light and heat, it is also a 
source (a secondary source) of life, — a producing agent and cheri slier of life 

E 



26 THE FIRE IN A NEW LIGHT. 

consuming even lifeless matter (say dead wood and dry coal), only to give them, 
in their released constituents, the capability to live again. 

Then, for figuring life and every form of it, from its divine essence down- 
wards, fire is the type of types. It is an image, to the very life, of life itself, — 
an emblem vivid, universal, true — true as the page of truth, which so constantly 
displays it, to enlighten, animate, and cheer us. 

And equally correspondent, universal, and true, — true again as the page of 
truth, that exhibits it for our warning, — is the same emblem of fire in its oppo- 
site character of destroyer : a symbol then of the light that is darkness, and of 
the life that is death. 

Again, from what element but fire do we draw the images, and borrow the 
terms, most vividly descriptive of life, through its natural stages, from the 
kindling of its nascent spark, up to its noon-day blaze, on to its smouldering 
decline, down to its flicker and extinction? 

Even in what we may call its constitution and vital functions there is a si- 
militude more than emblematic betwixt the life of fire and the life of sentient 
being. See how fire pulsates, breathes, and dies (with us) for lack of air. 

Or, suppose we want epithets to express, not stages of the outer life, but 
states, moods of the inner, living man, let these be sparkling, melting, aspiring, 
burning, raging ; look how Fire helps us, better than Johnson, to describe them 
to the very life. 

Nay, there is hardly even one of the leading employments or professions 
of life to which there is not a something symbolically analogous infire. 

The poet, for instance, dips his pen, the painter his pencil, in " fire." The 
soldier— -fire (moral and material) is the element he breathes. 

Then, for law, physic, and divinity. The lawyer feeds his household fire 
with the " best Wallsend," by keeping the fire of discord endlessly alive. The 
physician ? — what the main branches of his art, but to quench the fire of 
fever, or to make the fire of life kindle again ? The divine ? — he may not 
be a " flaming fire " or a shining light ; but the " flaming sword" and " fiery 
tongue" are ever the sacred emblems of his calling, to say nothing of the 
" brands" which it is his business to snatch (if it may be) from the burning. 



THE FIRESIDE A WINTER GARDEN. 27 

Fire is, in short, a grand depository of images, figures, types ; and lively ones, 
thence derived or derivable, are no less numerous than the aspects of life, 
natural, spiritual, social, individual, to which they correspond. 

But the fire ! — the dear familiar fire, that lights up our hearth, and faces 
round it! What is that to you, and me, and all of us, who have a fire (God 
help, and we too, those who have none !) to call their own ? Nobody, — nobody, 
at least, except dwellers between the tropics and patrons of Arnott stoves, — need 
be told that the fire which looks out at us so cheerily from the bars is the 
companion of the solitary, the comforter of the sad, the enlivener of the dull, 
the magnet of social attraction, the pivot and cherisher of tender recollections ; in 
a word, the sun (when the summer sun is wanting) of every domestic system : 
hence its very life ; not forgetting its vulgar but particularly vital uses, as roaster 
of the joint, and boiler of the kettle. 

It is chiefly in the air and sunshine, amidst the storms and even frosts 
(moral as well as natural) of the " wide wide world," that we must exhibit the 
fruitage of our lives ; but the fowerage whence it comes, — that, nine times out 
of ten, has been expanded in the genial glow of the fireside. Our blossoms of 
design and will are, Heaven knows, no more all beautiful than their succeeding 
fruits of act and deed are all good and wholesome ; but then they are our oivn. 
As such, they are apt to be, in winter especially, prodigious pets ; petted then, 
like the plants in our windows, or as our children, lapdogs, or grimalkins, with 
feet on fender before the fire. Who, after this fashion, has not nursed, time 
after time, and turn by turn, some glowing resolve, some brilliant expectation, 
some ardent love, some (who knows ?) burning hate, — efflorescences of the inner 
life, brought out by the blaze, while it warms the outer man ? If thoughts 
were visible, splendid would be the shows, displayed by firelight, of mental 
grandifloras, destined (how many ?) to drop and fade, fruitless to all seeming, 
as cinders on the hearth. 

Then for flowers of fancy, or imagination, those of that Iris family which for 
the most part fade and fall as soon as formed, but whose fruit, when matured, 
is the poem, the picture, or the statue ; — for expansion of these, what the fer- 
vent children of the South owe to their glowing suns and brilliant skies, do we, 

e 2 



28 THE FIRE IN A NEW LIGHT. 

children of the North, owe, in at least half-year measure, to our glowing fires. 
Poet of the pen or pencil, is it not the truth ? Have you not often, without 
stirring from your chair, climbed a Parnassus in a mountain of burning coal, 
and drunk, without blistering your throat, from a Helicon of spouting flame r 
And — poet, painter, sculptor, nay philosopher — see you not even in the smoke 
(provided it goes duly up your chimney!), in the wreaths of smoke, cloudy, 
weak, and wavering, full of the earthy, yet attendant on the ever-mounting 
blaze, a faithful image (if not a lively one) of the wavering, obscurity, and gross- 
ness which accompany your ardent aspirations after the lofty, the beautiful, 
the pure ! 

But no generalities will serve to define exactly what the fire, — your, or my, 
or his, or her fire, — is to each of us, because it bears with each an aspect pre- 
senting as many varieties as the shapes of our several shadows, when thrown, say 
by fire-light, on a wall. Like other of life's possessions, our own fire and fire- 
side are more to us, or less, or bear a value of some peculiar stamp correspondent 
with our individual character, as modified by constitution, culture, age, and 
social position. One may venture, however, the general affirmation that if there 
is a man living " with soul so dead " that he can warm nothing but his body at 
his household fire, he deserves to be thrown bodily upon it, or — better ! — to be 
made to change places with the houseless wanderer, asleep in a snowdrift, and 
dreaming (his last dream!) of a fire-side. The above are attributes of vitality, 
both inherent and communicable, such as are commonly felt, if not so com- 
monly acknowledged, to belong to the fire. But besides these, there is existent 
in every receptacle for coal or wood, when kindled, another element (shall we 
call it ?) of a totally different, yet superlatively vital sort. It at once represents 
life, and tends to impart of life or liveliness to every sitter, never, if once 
awakened to its presence, to be again a nodder, over the domestic hearth. 
Well, but to represent life and to impart of liveliness are only amongst those 
acknowledged attributes of fire we have just been noticing. True, but the 
vital and vitalizing capabilities to which we are now alluding, are, as we have 
said, of a completely different description. Now, dealers in laughing gas, — 
dabblers in chemical experiment, look not grave with apprehension, nor put on 



THE FIRE A GOOD MASTER—OF ARTS. 20 

a smile incredulous. It is not our purpose to dull your trade, if not already 
exploded, nor to anticipate your discoveries, if ever to be made. It is no new 
chemical product that we have drawn, or propose drawing, from the carbon in 
the grate or the fire which consumes it. The product of vitality, — to the ex- 
traction, if not discovery of which, we, with diffidence, lay claim, — lives only 
in the vivid imagery of the grate, in Live Coals and life-like Faces in the Fire. 
For these and their exhibition in due time ; but first, we must redeem the 
pledge given in the title of this chapter, to show up their producer, the fire, in 
a new light. 

We shall begin by viewing it (?'. e. the domestic fire) under an aspect 
of personality. In this there may be nothing absolutely new; but it is under 
what we believe to be a novel character that we shall proceed to regard the 
friendly element, or elementary friend, of our winter enjoyment. We all, 
each after our manner, are worshippers of this household friend as a household 
god, always heaping of our sacrificial substance on his iron altar, — some with a 
willing and generous, some with a niggard and selfish hand. But, even while 
in this we treat him as a deity, we regard and use him as a slave, a perfect 
drudge of all work. For board and wages we give him fuel, more or less bad or 
good, and for character we give him that (undoubtedly deserved) of an " excel- 
lent servant ;" we also pronounce him (as well we may) " a bad master." Now, 
it is not merely as a good servant, ministering to our domestic entertainment in 
a new capacity, that we are about to recommend the domestic fire. W^e 
would also make him known, probably for the first time, as a good, a superla- 
tively good master. But in so calling him, we use the appellation in a sense 
altogether different from that in which it is usually applied to the slave of the 
grate, when, bursting from his iron bars, he rises (after the manner of slaves in 
general) into a raging tyrant, a terrible destroyer of property and life. For a 
"master" of a perfectly opposite description would we have him recognized, — as 
an agent, not of destructive, but of creative power,— as, in short, a Master of Art, 
of the fine arts — sculpture and painting. " Sculpture ! painting ! how absurd !" 
cries one ; — " How ridiculous !" another ; — " Well, I never !" simpers a third ; — 
l 'If I ever!'' chimes in a fourth; while a fifth, less ready than the rest to set 



3° THE FIRE IN A NEW LIGHT. 

down the strange as incredible, and the new as nonsensical, is content to ex- 
claim, half-wondering, half-doubting, " How extraordinary !" Yes, it is extra- 
ordinary ; never was anything more wonderful than that, from nobody knows 
how long up to the present day, the brilliant qualifications of fire in an artistic 
light, and of the fire in particular, should have been totally overlooked ! It is 
a wonder which began to dawn on us with our nascent perceptions of the lively 
imagery always exhibited in the grate ; and wonder rises towards the zenith of 
perfect astonishment, as these, our perceptions, open wider and wider with our 
admiring eyes. What in the world has all the world been about, to have been 
talking, at least for centuries, of " the old masters," and to have been saying 
nothing, seeing nothing of the most ancient master of them all — the Adam of 
art, the fiery fountain from which, depend upon it ! the first of human artists 
drank inspiration? And what are we about now, to be digging, and raking, 
and patching, and varnishing, and crying and buying up the doubtful produc- 
tions, in sculpture and painting, of those same " old masters " of " the schools," 
and still to be saying nothing, seeing nothing, of the works, alike indisputable 
and inimitable, of the great sculptor and painter of " the grates " — at once the 
most ancient of masters and the first of modern artists. This certainly is mira- 
culous indeed! 

But of what avail are superlatives of wonder at the world's open-eyed blind- 
ness ? The object is to cure it, or to enable it to cure itself. Of what use 
are lamentations over the cruel neglect experienced (in common with many 
other minor geniuses) by that ardent genius we cannot cramp, and only half 
imprison by the bars ? It is a worthier homage to his surpassing excellence to 
bring it (better late than never!) into notice, and, if possible, to persuade the 
world, for its own benefit, to assign him his proper place. That is not simply 
above the hearth. No, never think it ! It is on the highest pinnacle of the 
temple of art. Or, as the only legitimate art-idol, let him be set upon its high 
altar, there to be " kept up" for ever by ardent worshippers of ^re-artistic. 
But, something more irresistible than even fire itself would seem requisite 
to thaw people into the belief that fire of an artistic sort is really existent, 
out of themselves, in an elementary and primary shape. This is the grand 



FIERY GENIUS UNDER NON-APPRECIATION. 31 

difficulty, — so great, that we almost shrink from trying to overcome it. Yet, 
warmed by our subject and object, difficulties melt before us. One only seems 
insoluble ; it is, that in the very highest excellence of our fiery genius, there 
exists a stumbling-block to his ever being appreciated as he ought. Supreme 
honours, both of artship and idolship, as of saintship, are, as everybody knows, 
chiefly accorded to the dead. Now, fire is, as above exemplified, almost syno- 
nymous with life. Viewed, therefore, as a master of art, ancient or modern, — 
in the grate or in a wider sphere, — we must confess him to be an essentially 
living artist. Hence his claim to be worshipped as an art-idol, — or, what is much 
the same, to be ranked foremost amongst the dead " Old Masters," — becomes 
extinct, his title to " immortality " being thus, as it were, consumed by his own 
ever-living flame. For this reason, we can scarcely expect more than to obtain 
for him a first place in the secondary, because living, rank of artists. With 
this, however, we may be content, because (to the credit of the present age) 
even living genius receives, in occasional instances, more notice and reward than 
it used to do. Works of art are open nowadays to the common eye and 
common voice. These have done something, and will do much more, towards 
correction of the eye and voice conventional. Nor, happily, have we now at 
the head of the realm and the Royal Academy a sovereign who hates " Boetry 
and Bainting too."* Thus both living literature and living art are rising into 
favour. If, therefore, the public eye can but once be made perceptive of that 
brilliant imagery, which must really have dazzled it into blindness, the public 
voice may at last make partial atonement to the yet more brilliant, the super- 
latively brilliant artist by whom it is produced. 

Sometimes, as we sit before the fire, — that is, before the matchless produc- 
tions therein always progressing or complete — the " master" himself in presence 
amidst them, — we fancy (no, it is certainly reality) that we can see and hear him 
give unmistakable expression to his burning sense of our neglect. He, at all 
events, reflects precisely in his fluctuating aspects the variable moods of slighted 

* This is an expression attributed by Hogarth to George II. 3 on that monarch's declining to 
patronize his picture of "The March to Finchley," that (or the engraving from it) was dedicated 
in consequence to the King of Prussia. 



32 THE FIRE IN A NEW LIGHT. 

genius, as exhibited more or less openly amongst men. Our fire is good, burn- 
ing calm and clear, all the brighter for the frost without. Then, to be sure, is 
he (the art genius) evidently in a corresponding temper. Cheerful and radiant, 
silent but rejoicing, he is employed on works which glow beneath his ruddy 
touches. Does he care for the neglect of his 2/ttobservant observers ? Not he ! 
As well ask his parent Sun, \( he cares when we (the little baskers in his beams) 
are unheedful of his glorious productions ! 

But the Sun even has, besides its spots, its eclipses and eclipsing clouds. 
The fire is eclipsed, half-extinguished by fresh-thrown coals, half-shrouded by 
clouds of smoke. It is dark, dead, almost out, through being forgotten too 
long ; and our genius of the fire, as if he were only a poor genius of humanity, 
seems " put out " too. His works of sculpture and painting are all buried ; 
his flame chisels and pencils are all idle ; as if that ardent spirit were extin- 
guished for ever, as well as dulled and chilled by the careless indifference of 
the world. 

Our fire is reviving. It fumes, frets, splutters, scolds ! But such undig- 
nified demonstrations of returning life can never be proceeding from our great 
art genius ! else he must have lost a measure of his greatness. More likely he 
has fled the grate ! Nay, there we see him resuming his artistic labours ; and 
while he works, he seems to be fretfully complaining that there is nobody notic- 
ing, or likely to notice, what he is about. But now, the fire has " got up " in 
earnest ! So has the master, to show, in a style more worthy of himself, his sense 
of non-appreciation. Masterpieces of art start up momently under his fingers 
of flame; and as he plies them, he roars and flashes like an injured Apollo, 
borrowing the thunder and lightning of Jove. But halt! We are, like our 
fiery genius, going, not too far or fast either, but a great deal farther and faster 
than anybody is, as yet, prepared to follow us. We must rein up, lower our 
tone, as in truth our painter (in the grate) is beginning to do himself. Be it 
also remembered, that genius, like other lofty presences, must stoop to enter at 
low doors ; must descend, for common notice, towards the common level ; 
must often step down, in order to step up into its proper place. Now, the ever- 
mounting genius of the grate cannot or will not descend to such debase- 



FIRE IN ART, AND ART IN FIRE. 33 

ments in his own behalf. Therefore we, for the sake of society and posterity, 
shall do something like it by him. We shall take him down, reverently, from 
what we have declared to be his proper place or places. We shall lift him 
from the high altar of the Temple of Art, where, veiled in clouds, not ijet of 
incense, but of smoky obscurity, he sits, an art idol, waiting worship. We 
shall depose him gently from the lofty pedestal whereon, hidden in like man- 
ner, he stands, an art master, tvaiting recognition, and make him figure, just 
for the present, in the capacity, at once high and humble, of an art-teacher to 
" the million ;" also to the thousands, inclusive of " the upper ten ;" in short, to 
Everybody. But, how get Everybody or Anybody to attend him ? — nay, not 
simply to attend, since that has been done for ages ; but to pay him due atten- 
tion in his million grated studii, which may as well be written " Schools." In 
what form most forcible, as well as appropriate, shall we invite people to be- 
come his pupils ? Let us think. Ah ! now we have it. We see, as we are 
pondering with feet upon the fender, a " stranger," — more properly, a black 
banner fluttering on the bar. It suggests the notion of an affiche. As it scin- 
tillates with sparks, it looks like a black handbill, printed with letters of fire. 
And what more suitable than a sparkling or flaming advertisement to publish 
the overlooked excellences we would bring to light, with the proposals and 
promises, as made^o/ - him, of the consummate art-teacher living in everybody's 
fire. Those promises, it is true, are to be fulfilled ! Those proposals will not 
prove pretences ! — conditions perfectly unheard of in advertising practice ! 
Still, there is nothing like "fame" in print, for catching hold upon the public 
eye and mind. It is a thousand times more irresistible than Jire in art, and, 
strange to say, a thousand times more striking than has proved, hitherto, art 
in Jire. An advertisement, therefore, shall first blazon it abroad ; and as for 
" at home," we only wish it could be hung over every hearth in the world, like 
that little black banner, still fluttering over ours. To make this advertisement 
the more " taking," at least in England, we shall take the liberty of foreign- 
izing the name of our supposed illustrious advertiser, who is, in fact, a citizen 
.of the world. 

English Sculpture and Painting are, as already acknowledged, recipients 

F 



34 THE FIRE IN A NEW LIGHT. 

nowadays of a few beams from the sun of native patronage. Nevertheless, to 
put in plain English, " Fire," the " Fire," or " Mr. Fire," in the light of a first- 
rate master, professor, exhibitor, teacher, or anything else of anything, would 
look, on the first blush or flush of it, simply absurd. To show up the Fire, or 
the art-genius within it, in either or all of the above capacities, as " Le Feu, 
or // Fuoco, or Monsieur le Feu, or Signor del Fuoco, looks quite another thing, 
— a thing almost certain to ensure him favour (not that he himself cares for it!) 
in favour of his name. " Le Feu," then, let it be, and thus runs his qffiche : — 

" Monsieur le Feu, R.A.A. (of the Radiant Academy of Apollo) and 
P.P. (sole Professor of Pyro-Plastigraphy) stoops to call the attention of an 
^discerning public to his matchless exhibitions in the pyro-plastic and graphic 
art, — an art in which sculpture and painting are combined after an original and 
admirable manner. His only object in this appeal is to become in his art- 
capacity what he has been for innumerable ages in others, the great warmer 
and enlivener of the human race. 

" Present at the same time in a thousand open studii, the Professor is always 
to be seen (though he never has been !) engaged on inimitable imitations, or 
more properly original m dels and pictures of living forms, chiefly the human. 
These, under the Promethean touches of the master, are all, each in its turn, 
seen to glow and breathe with ' life' of his imparting. On account of his 
always visible presence amidst his works, while working on and within them, the 
exhibitions of Le Feu are not merely shows of art-productions, but also of 
producing art. They are, in fact, schools, which only want scholars, to become 
of vital importance, and to eclipse totally every other art-school, both of former 
ages and the present day. They are schools, moreover, in which ' the school- 
master is not only always at home,' but always at home with everybody by the 
household hearth ! a fact this which everybody must admit, as soon as their eyes 
are opened to his presence. The Professor's pupils (in perspective) are thus 
afforded opportunities always at hand, only waiting to be embraced, for be- 
coming intimately acquainted with his peculiar styles and manner of manipu- 
lation. 

" M. le Feu will only state in conclusion, that, though the tardy reception 



A FLAMING PROSPECTUS. 35 

of his instructions, so long slighted, must reflect the most brilliant advantages 
on his pupils, it will not be attended by a spark of benefit to himself! " 

Thus much for our Professor's prospectus. As its publisher, it becomes 
our business, as it is our pleasure, to furnish proof, or to put our readers in a 
way of proving for themselves, that it is a curiosity of its kind ; that it is, in 
fact, a perfect unique, — an advertisement which, though " ventilating" an ex- 
cellence of Fire, has nothing about it of a " flare-up ;" a prospectus which, 
though in a manner associated with smoke, is far too empty of pretence to 
deserve the name of puff! 



F 2 







THE 0:. ! MISTS. 



THE FIRE AN EXHIBITOR. 



Invitation to an Uninviting Fireside. — The Grate a Grated Studio. — The Artist and his Materia/. — 
"Chips of the Old Block" and Blockish Faces. — Is "Accident" amidst the Coals? — Primitive 
Sculptures. — A Stiff-necked Pharaoh and Shrinking Satellite. — Tabular Carvings of Cleavage, or 
Rude Sculptures in Raw Coal. — Likenesses — like What ? — Prevalent Forms in Fire-lit Fragments. — 
A Curious Correspondence. — Strange Company brought together. — A Mexican Idol and a Modem 
Housekeeper. — Hard Subjects. — "Bits" of Coal Statuary as distinct from "Bits" of Tabular Carving. 
— Heads Uppermost and Predominant. — Primitive Art mocked by Accident ? — A Memnonic Head. 
— A Sphinx-like Fragment. — A Feline Fragment. — A Line unbroken of broken Kings. — Hints for 
Historic Illustration. — Was Monarchy founded upon Coal? — "Accident" out-Warwicks Warwick. 
— A Pharisaic Fragment. — "Shivers" of Cold Coal. — A Mixed Company. — A Striking Resemblance 
that has Struck Nobody. — Prompters to Imitative Art. — Sculptures Frequent in the Rock. — Sculp- 
tures Constant in the Coal. — Primitive Productions of "Accident" and Art. — A Light Surmise on 
Solid Bases. — Earliest Art of Direct Inspiration. — The Heathen and his Night Fire. — The First-seen 
Image. — The First-carved Idol. — "Accident" at variance with Herself — An Artistic Purveyor. 



71IJ 




chars of a fresh fill'd grate, 
Black, fragmentary, cold, and shining, 

me lit up, exhibits forms 
]f not designed, meet for designing. 



THE FIRE AN EXHIBITOR. 



" The chaos of a fresh-filled grate, 

Black, fragmentary, cold, and shining, 
Bv flame lit up, exhibits forms, 

If not designed; meet for designing." 



The above lines describe in a general way the aspect of the Fire before which 
we invite our friends to be seated. It is an aspect more chilly than cheerful — 
that must be confessed ; but never mind ; a warm welcome may atone for a 
cold hearth ; and the hearth itself is in a fair way of growing warmer. What 
is most to our immediate purpose, the chaos of Coal before us, though hardly 
yet alive (only illuminated) affords already some unquestionable evidence of the 
Fire's illustrative capacity. Though displayed, as yet, in a somewhat negative 
manner, it produces abundance of positive effect. 

Now then, let us shut our eyes on the vulgar ironwork of Coalbrookdale in its 
common capacity of grate, and open them wide on the grated front of M. Lc 
Feu's open studio, where, mind, he has just been supplied with fresh material for 
the exercise of his art. This has been spoken of as twofold, embracing sculpture 
and painting. More properly it is compound — an art sui generis, in which sculp- 
ture and painting are combined, — mingled by our pyrographic Professor in a 



40 THE FIRE AN EXHIBITOR. 

manner peculiar to himself. His modus operandi, as well as his productions, are, 
however, so greatly correspondent to the workings and works of the chisel and 
pencil, that terms applied to these can alone describe them. But now to observa- 
tion, steady, sober observation, through the medium simply of our sight, with a 
polite refusal of the coloured eye-glass which Fancy, likely enough, may be 
holding out to us. Thus, determined to see only what is to be seen, let us look 
at Le Feu's treatment of the blocks and slabs devoted to his use. He has seized 
on a few, and his flame, plying already as a chisel upon them, serves as a flambeau 
to illuminate the rest. The artist seems examining the texture and quality of 
the substance he is about to work on, — those portions of it which are left at pre- 
sent only raw and dead. But as the light is thrown upon them, glancing here, 
glancing there, an appearance of life sparkles upon every fragmentary shape. 
Each seems ready — yes, and willing — to show what it is made of, flaws inclu- 
sive, to the " Master " who is going to mould it into something better than its 
present self. And what are the shapes, exactly as they are now, presented by 
these simply illuminated bits of coal ? What should they be but those .exclu- 
sively their own ? — for what forms can possibly belong to them but the forms 
of shapeless fragments ? Chips as they are from a very old block, what are 
they likely to be like except the block they came from ? Their faces, as is not 
uncommon with blockish families of higher extraction, are, for the most part, 
broad and flat. Yet some of them are distinguished by features that are high 
and sharp, strongly lined as well as strongly lighted. Such as they are, faces 
and features of these yet " dead " coals, the Fire in the grate — that is, the great 
Le Feu — has had no hand in them, only to show them up. The tools of the 
mine and the cellar, and the hands that wielded them, are alone answerable, 
with that heavy old block paternal, for all the defects — some perhaps conver- 
tible into excellences — of the little blocks before us. Nay, but there is some- 
thing else which has had to do — most to do, seemingly — with these rough 
hewings for the sculptures of Le Feu. That something or somebody, till 
proved nothing or nobody, is our old sprite " Accident." We see her, at this 
moment, unless we are mistaken, perched on that pyramid of smoking coals. 
Now., talking of " pyramids " one could fancy — pshaw ! away with Fancy — we 




PHAROAr || 

P, 41, 



A STIFF-NECKED PHARAOH. 41 

certainly perceive, on the surface of an illuminated slab, some figures that look 
like hieroglyphics ; yes, exactly like the hieroglyphic characters of Egyptian 
sculpture. It is only to look at them to confess them facsimiles — all but — of 
those primitive images of Man such as he has graven of himself on the granites 
of old Egypt. See there (Plate IX.) the effigy, good enough for burning, of a 
seated king, a stiff-backed, stiff-necked Pharaoh, on a throne of correspondent 
character. If this regal and rigid atomy had only been found, precisely as we 
see it, on the lid of a sarcophagus instead of on the face of a coal, none but 
possibly the learned, would have wondered how it got there. They might have 
been puzzled on finding a rilievo where they only looked for intaglii, but to 
common observers this pigmy representative of Coptic rule might neither have 
appeared out of time nor place. His most upright Majesty is, be it observed, 
raised, only a little, from the surface of the block, and sunk below it, also but 
a little, there appears before him a creature, clearly his own, kneeling as 
humbly as his knees permit. What is his business in the royal presence? If 
a fragment of exhumed and sculptured granite were the object of scrutiny, to 
what a multitude of profound speculations would this simple inquiry give rise! 
But as we have nothing in hand — that is to say, in view — but a fragment of 
exhumed and shattered coal, it would be only simply absurd to speculate at all 
about the meaning of what is figured on its surface. If, as would appear on 
the face of it, Accident alone brought these semblances of sovereign and satellite 
here together, and here at all, they can have no business whatever with one 
another. If, on the contrary, the subordinate personage had been brought 
before the principal by the chisel of Design, the relation of the two would have 
been at least easy to guess at. The former, we should have said, was intended 
to represent a culprit, or, just as likely and nearly the same, a counsellor, in 
presence of a master bent, in his rigidity, on taking no counsel but his own. 

So much for slab number one of this primitive Coal-sculpture, or the frac- 
ture which looks so like it. Can we, amidst the confusion of our artist's studio, 
lay hold, without injury to our fingers ! of a number two ? Yes, certainly, 
and on numbers three and four, with at least a dozen more. They are to be 
seen, now we search for them, c - plain as the nose on the face " of that great 

G 



42 THE FIRE AN EXHIBITOR. 

king which has started out, only this moment, to look down upon the little 
one, to beard him in his own poor dominion of a slaty coal (Plate IX.). But 
we must remember how soon the flambeau of our "master" will be turned into 
a chisel ; let us be speedy, therefore, in snatching from his rough entablatures 
some few other of the original figurings which will soon be effaced, or trans- 
formed into figures of his own. Nay, but this drawing even from dead coals, 
as merely lighted into liveliness, is of the things easier to talk of than to do, — 
shapes are so mingled with the shapeless on those shining surfaces, and they 
crowd so fast upon the eye, coming and going in the flicker of the blaze. In 
this tabular carving, or what is struck off, by " Accident," to resemble it, see 
how rilievi and intaglii of every degree, alto, basso, mezzo, — how imagery of 
every description, faint, forcible, rude, delicate, everything but perfect (yet 
sometimes approaching it), is seen to stand out, or shrink in, on the faces of 
these illuminated blocks. What all these likenesses are like, there is scarcely 
now time to notice, much less to describe. But what in a general way should 
they resemble ? Why, if Accident can hit upon likenesses at all, they must be, 
one would think, likenesses of anything — no matter what ! Yes, one would sup- 
pose so ; metis nous verrons ; perhaps we shall discover on further notice that 
even in this carving of coal by cleavage (or, say, by Accident) there is usually 
a something that happens to resemble selection — selection of subjects. Nay, 
never laugh ! We have not said, mind, that anything of the sort is really 
existent, only that an appearance of it certainly is. 

As we pursue our observations on the imagery of the grate, whether the 
original, of Accident, or the remodelled, by Le Feu, it will become quite evi- 
dent, — clearly beyond dispute, — that there is apparent, amidst all its disorder, a 
touch of the orderly, with many touches of the prevailing. Whenever we are 
presented amidst fire-lit or fiery fragments with a simulative form, we shall find 
it to image almost invariably some form of Life. Ten or twenty to one but 
this will be a form, more or less perfect, of the Life human ; and amidst these 
effigies of man, curiously predominant are those which 

" The likeness of a kingly crown have on." 




IDOL AN 



A MEXICAN IDOL AND A MODERN HOUSEKEEPER. 43 

We shall often have occasion to notice a prevailing resemblance, however 
accidental, betwixt the first shattery similitudes of Sculpture upon Coal, and 
the first rude Sculptures of Antiquity, — this in style and character, and even in 
subject, as just exemplified in our number one (Plate X.). It must, however, 
be acknowledged, that amongst the stiff angular figures, figured commonly on 
the faces of raw coal, there are not a few which would look strangely " out of 
keeping" on the walls of an Egyptian tomb or Assyrian palace. These would 
scarcely, though, seem worse assorted, amidst the company they would meet 
with in such grand old places, than they often do with their own associates on 
the same little carbonaceous block. As for " keeping," that is for ever being 
laughed at by Design, — who then can wonder that Accident should do the 
same ? And in truth, Accident, or something like her, does bring strange 
company together in the fire, as well as by the fireside. For an example, let 
us turn again to our heap of intaglii and rilievi, as still exhibited only by the 
approaching flame. Ah ! there's the very thing ! (Plate XI.) Look at that 
head and shoulders, — would they not, colossalized, do excellent museum-duty 
for those of an idol of antiquity ? not exactly Assyrian, nor Egyptian, but 
rather Indian or Mexican. Yes, that grim visage belongs, or might do, to a 
Mexican idol. And close by, as if in its horrible embrace, stands a half- 
length modern figure, with something however of the antique and grim 
about it, — something also like an image ; and it is the " very image," we are 
certain, of some real Somebody we have somewhere seen. Yes, now we 
remember, it's the very counterpart of the superior portion, (if any such 
belongs to her?) of old Miss Saveallina, or is it Evangelina? Smith, of Barley- 
corn House, Brompton. She has lived for many years on lodgers, — boarded 
on boarders, — but has fallen, of late, into something like atrophy and decay. 
She has been declining sensibly ever since she lost " the most generous of 
gentlemen, most pious of preachers (so she once called him) that ever entered 
her 'establishment;' but he went over, like a perfidious pervert, — that was her 
comparison, — to fat Mrs. Puffiman's, over the way. He was attracted, she 
assured us, by nothing better, (for Mrs. P. was old enough to be her mother,) 
by nothing better than the scarlet of her drawing-room curtains and the 

G 2 



44 THE FIRE AN EXHIBITOR. 

shine of her silver candlesticks (only plated, after all !) set in the winder just 
a-purpose (so declared Miss Evangelina) to ketch his h'eye." Now, as one 
comes to consider them, this blood-thirsty idol of ancient Heathendom and 
this pelf-thirsty housekeeper of modern Christendom, one begins to doubt if 
their being associate is a thing so utterly incongruous as it seemed at first 
sight. Is it really Accident, and nothing else, which has brought them to- 
gether, in their effigies, to be burnt together in one fire ? Talk of their 
being coupled thus by Accident, why not by Sympathy, — the sympathy of a 
common delight in human victims ? Well, both will soon be victims in their 
turn ; though they are certain, before consummation, to be remodelled by 
the flame, that is, by the chisel of Le Feu. They look hard subjects for 
improvement, composed as they are seemingly, of slaty, stony anthracite ! 
But there's no telling; one can't always judge by appearances of what is in 
coals, nor yet in coal images, any more than of what is in the individuals 
they represent. It is impossible to say of either, that they will not prove 
convertible, at last, into something good, — worthy at least of notice. 

Enough at present for primitive figurings of fracture, — semblances of 
primitive figures of sculpture, — on the faces of illuminated Coal-blocks. It is 
not now on their surfaces but in the outlines, in the contours of such blocks 
and chippings, that we shall look for imagery correspondent, in a measure, 
with what we have been observing. And no need to look long ! rough forms 
of statuary, one, two, three, with a score besides, challenge our notice, and 
shall obtain it, as they await, bold as passive, the advancing tool of flame. 
See how they come out, sharp, dark, decisive, against appropriate backgrounds, 
crimson, yellow, blue, or grey. How can we have failed till now to distin- 
guish them, or the like of them, from associate shapes that " shape have 
none"? They all, — mark, — serve to image more or less strikingly, or to 
mock, if you will, portions of the form human ; and what is further noticeable, 
these are all, without exception, upper portions. Singular this, is it not ? but 
it is by no means peculiar to the jumble of simulative fragments now before 
us, for not in this only, but in almost every toss up or toss down within the 
grate, heads, not tails, are uppermost and predominant, — most common, and 







1 



A MEMNONIC HEAD AND SPHINX-LIKE FRAGMENT. 45 

just where they are seen commonly in the order of Nature. The wonder is, 
that their position is but very rarely reversed in the disorder of the coals. As 
for tails, it may seem disparaging even to mention them in connection with 
images of us, Monboddo " monkeys" with no "tails on us" but the tail-ors. 
True, but we merely meant to remark what you, our observant friends, must 
in due time notice for yourselves, that the nether half of the human animal 
figures with comparative rarity in the raree-show, sculptural and pictorial, to 
which we are inviting your attention. 

We perceive, as might be expected, a correspondent style of cut, or 
cleavage, in the objects of our late and present notice. The general likeness 
is obvious enough betwixt these consequential bits of coal fragments, which 
stick up, not without some claim, for bits of Statuary, and those bits of 
somewhat stickish figures which figure in and out on coal faces, many with 
the " air " and occasionally " graces " of those seen in tabular carving of the 
earliest time. Stiffness, hardness, dryness, coldness, are the prevailing cha- 
racteristics of them both, yet both, like the conventional forms of early Art, 
often represent forms of life in a very forcible, if not very natural manner. 
Accident, in her play amongst the coals, be it at surface carving or at statuary, 
hits often enough on the subjects as well as style of primitive Sculpture. Of 
this, some tabular examples have been already noticed ; here are some others 
of the less superficial sort. 

Look against that fiery distance, or call it desert. Half-intercepting it 
is a huge head of Memnon, or say Memnonic head (Plate XII.). It is rough- 
hewn, at least it looks so, in black coal, and it glitters in the blaze just as 
black granite in the blazing sun. It is somewhat deficient, for a Mem- 
non, in roundness and repose, but roundness it will soon acquire, — repose 
hardly, from the flame chisel. By some freak of Accident, which savours of 
Design, it has been provided with a meet companion, in a Sphinx-like frag- 
ment. The latter has been only brought to light, just now, through the fall 
of a superincumbent heap of ashes. If exhumed from a heap of sand, it 
might have been taken, by the unlearned, for a. fragment of a Sphinx. Not far 
off is another head of another colossus, but of a different type, not the 



46 THE FIRE AN EXHIBITOR. 

human. It is rough and rude in aspect, and looks as ferocious as a leonine 
animal should do (Plate XIII.). But that great brutish face seems positively 
innocent, — lamb-like, — as compared with those of the little brutes who are 
making game of it. Little brutes? — no, they are perfect little imps, and must 
have lighted their torch of torment at a worse fire than a fire of coals ; but 
call them " brutes," " imps," or what you will, they are only, after all, — these 
little chippings from a coal-block, — like everyday chips from the block of 
humanity. They have mistaken, evidently, that head of a feline colossus for 
a head of that nine-lived, nine times pitiable animal, the domestic Cat, — butt 
of domestic cruelty, for ever being tortured all but to the death. 

In this coal-statuary, however broken, there is never a break in the line of 
coal-kings, — a line to which that of Banquo was a brief one ! Just look, now, 
at the chaotic realm bounded by the bars. We have only to look, and behold, 
sharing a reign if not a rule, a pair of crowned heads (Plate XIV.). A pair? 
Nay, we see nearer on a half-dozen. Two shall suffice for present illustration- 
By-and-by — be prepared for it — a heap of royalties, or royal portraitures, — full 
lengths rarely, halves frequently, busts continually, heads perpetually, — will 
command our homage. We shall behold them in every cut of crown and 
countenance ever worn or imputed since Monarchy began. Where unauthen- 
ticated portraits are deficient, as in the pre-Williamite period of English his- 
tory, illustrators of historic volumes, sculptors of historic statues, and painters 
of historic pictures, instead of merely consulting their fancies, would do far 
better to consult their^Ves. Let them set about it. 

apropos of Monarchy, it would almost seem as if its foundations had been 
laid deep with the Coal-measures — deep with these rudi mental coal-kings. 
What if these " foundations " were laid originally by revolutionary convulsions 
of the earth ? What if they are liable to be shaken and upheaved by the same, 
or broken and brought up by the hand of man, — the miner ? they are never, 
mark, likely to be wholly undermined. And what if fragments of this royal 
" foundation " or institute of royalty come in the form of effigies or impresses 
to be burnt daily in everybody's fire ? They are by this very process not only 
brought to a new light, but absolutely made alive, and set before the eyes 



xin. 




■A SPOR; 







' 



ACCIDENT OUT-IVARIFICKS WARWICK. 47 

of everybody, if nobody has seen them. For what can they be thus exhi- 
bited ? Only for ocular demonstration, that the form monarchical is the true 
form of government, stamped not merely on the face of the earth, but on its 
very heart. 

These sovereign coals or coal sovereigns ? If after all it is Accident alone 
that crowns and deposes them, we can only say that she is a king-maker that 
" out-Warwicks " Warwick in the grate. In very truth though, there is a 
something in this interminable, however interrupted line of succession (be 
it from King Block or King Log), which, in the midst of anarchy, looks 
very much like Order — like Design we suppose we must not say. Of the 
" succession " itself there is no doubt. That (dispute it who may !) is an 
observable fact. 

We shall make but a few more selections from the heap of sculptural 
images now presented to our choice. Here is what we shall call " a group " 
(Plate XV.), though the figures that compose it look, Heaven knows, dissociate 
enough. Foremost, arrogantly prominent, is a head, formal and severe, such 
as might have belonged, so one could fancy, to some Jewish Rabbi. It is no 
bad effigy, at all events, of a "Master" of riches and repute — a Pharisee, no 
matter whether called Jew or Christian, whether of ancient or of modern 
times. Look at that dark, hard profile coming out so clear and sharp against 
the light behind — a light which, proceeding from, is correspondent with itself. 
What can be more appropriate than that sheet of whitish flame, all glare and 
flare and flaunt, with nothing like a glow about it ? Notice the sparkle in that 
cruel-looking little eye ; the same in the jewels, or their counterfeits, on that 
high and wide expanse of chest ! Had this been an image of Design, and 
designed for what it most resembles, a High Priest of Israel, those glittering 
sparks would have been intended to imitate the precious stones on his sacred 
breastplate. Accident, however, can only hit upon likenesses in a general way. 
Perhaps in a general way, the sparkle on that breast of cold coal may happen to 
image an outward mockery of Heaven's own jewels, absent from the casket 
made for their reception. That no such jewels are present in the individuals, 
that is, in the genus figured by this haughty hypocrite, is tolerably clear. See 



48 THE FIRE AN EXHIBITOR. 

how he looks up heavenwards, — the Pharisaic sinner ! as he looks down on, 
even while oyer-looking — what ? Why that trio of shivery miserables, shivered 
evidently from the same block, (only perhaps a better part of it,) as himself. 
He is divided from them by a yawning chasm, which threatens to become 
a fiery gulf. But for the fire, and for thoughts of Lazarus — not at the gate of 
Dives, — those poor shivery things would make one cold to look at them ! 

Let us turn now from these, and for awhile from the fire also, to review, as 
a whole, the few pieces of primitive Sculpture, or call it Fracture, here taken 
fiom the coal. A queer assemblage they make up — as ill-assorted as if they 
had been brought from the ends of earth and the ends of time. Prominent 
and pre-eminent, we have exemplars, a few out of many, of those kingly 
forms, more or less fragmentary, which are wont to overtop if they do not 
overrule the rest. Through deposition they have lost in majesty of aspect. 
But majestic they did look in their own realms, when awaiting, in stern, rock- 
like rigidity, the rising tide of fire or the revolutionary violence of the poker. 
To these duly subordinate we have rude resemblances or uncouth mockeries 
of meaner men, varied occasionally by the like of beasts. And amidst this 
medley, with its strong features of the antique, the grand, and the grotesque, 
we have a sprinkle of vulgar humanity, just as we see it every day, — shiny-faced 
portraits — what if they be black? — of common life, already "lively images," 
though wanting, as yet, in the life of " Live Coals." 

Here, then, in our little collection from the works, nay — the " sports " of 
Accident, or her shadow, the ancient and modern, the foreign and familiar, are 
nearly balanced. But it is not thus that we shall usually find it when searching 
for forms amidst coal fragments. There is an old-world style about the cut or 
cleavage or breakage of a dozen to one of them. Hence, in these rude sem- 
blances of Sculpture, the general, and sometimes particular, likeness to sculp- 
tures of early Art. The similitude is striking as curious, though it would seem 
to have struck nobody. Touching it we shall venture a suggestion — perhaps a 
silly, certainly a bold one, — so let it be prefaced by a modest query. To what 
did imitative Art owe its birth ? or from what source draw its first nourishment ? 
Not, as it would seem, from living fountains, unless of fire. From what, to 



XV. 







PROMPTERS TO IMITATIVE ART. 49 

repeat the inquiry in other words, came the first impetus to imitation ? Not 
from the mere beauty or grandeur of living forms. These could scarcely have 
inspired a desire to imitate them, much less have given a notion of how to set 
about it. The lover held by popular tradition to have drawn the first por- 
trait, did not trace the likeness of his mistress from her living features, but 
from their shadow on the wall. It would seem, in short, to have been a neces- 
sity, that for inspiration of " the imitative mind " and suggestion of the imita- 
tive art, that specimens of imitations, or of similitudes resembling them, should 
be seen. The hand of man being incompetent to their production, it fell on 
the hand of Nature to provide them. Such seeming copies she did, in " sport," 
as we view it, and through the agency of so-called " Accident," place before 
the eye. They consisted of models and pictures, wrought and painted in 
various manners and materials, such as those of which " accidental " imagery is 
made up. Prominent amongst the " curious " likenesses of this description 
are rude sculptures, or their semblance, in the rock. They are recognized, in 
some remarkable instances, even now ; in early times perhaps much oftener — 
often enough, it is likely, to make them an alphabet of sculptural art. That 
was the second of an imitative sort, if Architecture also sat in her infancy at 
the rock's foot, as at that of a nursing mother. This would be to say of the 
rock that from thence gushed one, at least, of the fountains at which imita- 
tive Art first drank. Is it saying too much ? Perhaps not. But images in 
unhewn stone, are they not too rare to have been suggestors of the art of 
imagery ? By no means ; nor probably are they rare at all. We believe, on 
the contrary, that there is scarcely a rough rocky surface which is not a tablet 
of rude sculptural resemblance, nor yet a detached rocky fragment which 
would not, from a certain point of view, look like a statuary figure of some 
designed form. Why do we think so ? Because we see that it is so ; not, 
indeed, on tables or in blocks of stone, but on tables and in blocks of coal, 
closely resembling rocks in aspect. Yes, there are always present, and always 
conspicuous in the fire, an abundance of simulative shapes, such as would have 
been quite competent to suggest the art of sculpture, if they did not help to 
do so. Here are our witnesses, taken with their evidence on paper, to corro- 

H 



SO THE FIRE AN EXHIBITOR. 

borate the above assertion ; and there, in the warm witness-box of the grate, 
are plenty of others that give better testimony to the same effect. 

Look at those rockish, blockish bits of effigies, — there, in illuminated but yet 
lifeless coal, — here, in our copies from the like. Mockeries as they may be of 
" the human form divine," struck off, as it would seem, by the hand of " Acci- 
dent," do they not image us just as faithfully, and much after the same manner, 
as the hand of Design, when she began to try it at imitative art, — when her 
images were yet stiff and stony, unwarmed by the life of nature, as these by 
the life of fire ? And in due course there will appear, amidst the clouds of 
smoke, a " cloud " of other witnesses, of improved exterior and of like unim- 
peachable character, and they will tell us more in completion of the same story. 
It is a story, or call it fable, of how that imitative art first took lessons from 
notice of " sports of Accident " (were they nothing else ?) amongst the rocks ; 
then, of how that she was lighted on her progress, and helped to progression by 
taking heed to a resembling play (of " Accident") with fire, amidst the coals. 
Well, tale or fable, let us keep for the present to its beginning, and to the pri- 
mitive illustrations that belong thereto. 

Such imagery as we see, or overlook, in our fires now, must have been pre- 
sent in the fires of ancient time ; and how can we be sure that it was not per- 
ceived then, as well as perceptible, say in the fires, the sacred, idolized, for ever 
contemplated fires of Assyria, Persia, Egypt ? The first sculptors of those na- 
tions were most likely of their priesthood. And what more likely than Fire, 
the glorious, beautiful, terrible, mysterious object of their watch and worship, 
to have impressed its imagery on the sacerdotal eye and mind ? 

Now we do not mean to imply, much less to affirm, though bolder asser- 
tions have been often hazarded, that the early sculptors of Babylon or Egypt 
(lay or sacerdotal) were used to sit down, with tablet of stone, or roll of papyrus, 
to make incised pictures or picture-writing from their fires; just as we, with pen 
and paper, have been drawing images from ours. Not exactly that! We only 
conjecture, — the surmise founded on figured coal-blocks, and supported by 
colossi of the same, that, from like figures and like forms, exhibited in like 
manner, they might have derived first notions of imitative art ; also of how to 
practise it. 



XVI 







THE HEATHEN AND HIS NIGHT-FIRE. 5 1 

The very earliest of all sculptors, and of all artists, might have derived their 
art from no mediate source, but at once from the Divine origin of all that is 
grand, beautiful, and true. They, probably, were directly taught of God, as, 
afterwards, the cunning artificers, the "wise-hearted men," who wrought the 
wood, and metal, and stone-work of the Tabernacle, and first grand Temple at 
Jerusalem. The first of art productions must, in that case, have been nearest 
of all to absolute perfection ; but of these, where are the remains ? Our 
humble guesses at art derivation relate only to those rude attempts at imita- 
tion, which, though spoken of as connected with the birth of art, only be- 
long, in all likelihood, to one of its regenerations, its gradual revivals. Of 
what do the vestiges of such revival consist, as brought to light in the earliest 
remains, say of Assyria or of Egypt ? Why, in imitations of Nature, curiously 
similar to likenesses {not imitations) of like objects produced (by Accident?) 
amongst rocks and blocks ; and most similar of all, to shapes as first exhibited 
to be afterwards re-modelled by Fire. 

The first carved idol of unlettered heathendom may have come, if not of 
the rock, of some illuminated stock or block, and that by descent of a very direct 
and obvious description. A savage is sitting alone with his benighted thoughts 
beside a night fire; forests around him, moon and stars above. His gaze is 
not uplifted to the lights overhead. He looks no higher than to the fitful 
blaze, and the smoulder of the giant logs before his feet. And now he starts! 
an unwonted apparition attracts his eye, and rivets it (Plate XVI.). A colos 
sal figure, dark and deformed, rises, head and shoulders, above the burning 
pile, mouth and nostrils spouting flame, and — 

"Eyes red sparkling with the fire glow." 

He looks with wonder upon what he never saw before — an image ; a rude, 
hideous likeness of a man. But as it towers there amidst that terrible glory of 
flame, and that cloudy obscurity of smoke, it resembles infinitely more a God ; 
the dark, dangerous, mysterious Being, imaged already in the poor heathen's 
fancy. So he looks at it, not with wonder only, but with awe. Though 
eye has caught, eye cannot keep it ; neither dares he, with his hand, to 
snatch from the fire that grim impersonation of his new-found Deity. Yet 

H 2 



52 THE FIRE AN EXHIBITOR. 

he longs, for all his dread of it, — most, perhaps, for very dread's sake, — to seize 
on, to arrest, to keep it by him. Impotent desire ! while he hesitates, a rising 
column of dense smoke hides the image from his sight. Presently, the night 
wind careering through the forest drives the smoke before it, and, seemingly, 
the image too, for it is gone — vanished ! Not, though, before its form is 
photographed in the dark camera of the beholder's mind. His " imitative 
faculty " has been awakened with his dread and wonder. Then the savage goes 
to work, perhaps on a charred fragment, the " residue " of the very shape that 
appeared to him amidst the fire, perhaps on the " residue " of some goodly tree 
that has served his meanest uses. His rude tool, and primitive paint, and 
small skill, fail, at first, to realize again the " idea" realized for the first time 
in his night fire. But he succeeds at last, and behold the likeness of that 
grim effigy which flashed upon him while groping in his darkness for a visible 
God. And so this poor " Feeder on Ashes " comes to " hold a lie in his 
right hand ;" sets it up, falls down and worships, pets and propitiates it by 
aid of sacrificial fire ; then, perhaps, in a fit of angry disappointment, com- 
mits it to the flames from whence it wasjirst " taken ! " 

We shall leave for the present much, perhaps, where we found it — amongst 
the coals, — the question, " did antiquity and heathendom borrow of primitive 
sculpture (Art and Imagery) from primitive forms noticed in their fires ? Fur- 
ther questioning of our own may draw from out it more in the shape of answer 
to the above, and other queries suggested by itself. Be this as it may, the fire, 
and nothing and nobody besides, must be held answerable for all the absurdities 
(existent or imputed) of all its questionings, past, present, and to come. 

Now for one more look at our " drawings " from the — vulgar names are 
so obtrusive ! — from the grate. Every one is a copy, taken with perfect honexty 
if not with perfect accuracy, of some illuminated fragmentt here displayed. 
Figures or faces they certainly represent, after their manner ; and for all their 
eccentricities they look (don't they ?) much too soberly solid to have been 
traced by Fancy's shadowy fingers, or from outlines owing to Fancy, only, an 
investiture of Form. Well, then, these indisputable resemblances must be 
purely accidental, after all ? Perhaps ? But see how uniform they are in 



THE GREAT ARTIST OF THE GRATE. 53 

style. Notice how they all present a certain resemblance (fragmentary as they 
are) to certain perfect shapes of Nature, those being, in ten instances to one, 
upper portions of the form of man. Be it remembered also that we have here 
but a few copies from originals, such as are always on view in the repository 
whence these were taken. Put this and that together, what can we make of it? 
Why, something like this, — that if Accident alone has had to do with these 
sculptural semblances amongst the coals, she has been constantly at variance 
with herself here (as at times elsewhere), in emulation of Design. In this her 
capricious conduct — too steadily persevered in to look like caprice at all, — she 
has played the part of a rare journeyman to the " master," Fire. We see here 
(Plate XVII.) how she has supplied him, not simply with irregular blocks and 
uneven slabs, but with traceries of tabular carving and rude statuary for re- 
modelling or completion, — which he will. And what " Accident " has been 
doing in our fire, now, she does every day in every coal-fire in the world. 

In this first attendance with other students at the art school of our illus- 
trious master, — -as, while " sitting at his feet," we have warmed our own, — it 
has been our aim, only slightly diverged from, to confine observation to cer- 
tain only of the sculptural " pieces " heaped around him. These have been 
such as, produced to all appearance by " Accident " alone, would seem to have 
owed nothing but illumination to the artistic presence. But now, just as we 
are rising from the fire — that is, from the fire-lit studio of Le Feu, — he diverts 
us provokingly from our purpose. In what manner? Why, by thrusting 
forward too prominently to be overlooked (by an awakened eye) one of his 
own productions, or conversions — nay, two of them, associate, on which it is 
plain he has been busy, — on one for a long time, on the other for a shorter. 
Look at his subjects — or the subject may we call it? — of "A Boy and Mask" ! 
(Plate XVIII.) As composed (dubiously) by Le Feu and "Accident," it 
looks " a bit " classical. As composed (clearly) of coal and cinder, it is a com- 
pound " bit," and compounded of material by no means unsuitable to what it 
represents — that bronzy fragment which images the bit of a boy it warms with 
the young life of a live coal, full of the swelling exuberance of fire-drawn tar. 
Mark, how, under the handling of Le Feu, it palpitates with heat, as if for 



54 THE FIRE AN EXHIBITOR. 

very fright at that mockery of unveiled features which simulates a mask ! That, 
mind, is a mere cinder, — rough, furrowed, discoloured, dry, and dead, — nothing 
but the hollow shell of a kernel, the coal that " lived " within it ! 

Well, as before noticed, we have been led by digression to anticipation — 
not, however, to any great extent — only so much as over the little interval of 
time or space which divides this, our present sitting, from the one to follow. 
In that we shall devote entirely to that consum-it artist (we hate puns !) — that 
inimitable artist, the grate — pshaw! the glorious Le Feu! and his operations 
that attention confined hitherto to the shapings, " rough and ready," on which 
he is about to work. Let it be remembered that we have as yet only followed 
him in his preliminary proceedings — in his lighting up, while seeming to ex- 
amine the material, raw or prepared, which, his own already, he is about to 
make so more completely. He has been, at the same time, (a condescension 
for which we thank him,) holding as it were the candle for our accommodation, 
while we have made ours, by appropriation, a few of the preparatory productions 
of his hidden subordinate. They are but foils truly to his own ! — well placed, 
therefore (as if by study), in the confusion of his studio. There, presently we 
shall see the sculptor at his work in ardent earnest, infusing into all he works 
on the warmth and other characteristics of natural and artistic life ! 



avm. 




THE FIRE A SCULPTOR. 



From " Play " to Work. — An Old Slab with a New Face. — The Flame Chisel. — A Primitive 
King Block. — The Fire a Re-former. — Fiery Purgation. — A Royal Metamorphosis. — The Fire 
a Trans-former. — "Heaps" of Tabular Carving. — A Singer of high "Pitch." — A Minstrel in 
"Alto." — An Auditress who wants "Relief."' — Which most Musical? — "Finishing" Touches. 
— " Finished," gone. — Where gone to? — Process of Ligation and Transformation. — Image of a po- 
pular Idol. — A Capital "Flare-up." — The Coal-Shivers. — A Winter-Night's Excursion. — From 
the Fire to the Street. — The like of the Coal-Shivers. — From the Street to the Fire. — Another 
Transformation. — A Trio of "Comfortables" in Coal-Tar. — The Fiery Sculptor gives Youth to 
Age ; and Sudden Maturity to Youth. — Transformation and Expansion. — Coal "Black" and Tar 
"Brown." — Hurrah ! for the Shoeblack Brigade. — "Live Coals" in their common Course. — Le 
Feu the Artist, and Le Feu the Cook. — Humanity "Rules the Roast." — "Poor" Coals age 
soonest. — Opposites and Contrasts. — Hard "Bodies" and soft. — Sharp Bodies and Round. — Crow- 
ing up. — Contrasts again. — Big "Bodies" and little. — Sculptural forms, Primary and Secondary. — 
Art Schools parodied by " Schools " in the Fire. — Crystal Palace and its Courts. — (Assyrian) 
Sculpture newly lighted. — (Grecian) Sculpture at high blaze. — Mesdames Smith and Jones on 
the Colourless and Nude. — (Gothic and MedicevalJ Sculpture ftful and flickering. — (Renaissance) 
Sculpture rekindled. — "Gates of Paradise." — Facts and Queries. 



XIX. 




Touch'd by the chisel, Flame, the straight grows round, 
The rugged, smooth, the black and shining, dull, 
Then swelling curves in bitumen abound, 
And forms arise more flowing and more full. 

P. 57. 



57 



THE FIRE A SCULPTOR. 



Touched by the chisel, Flame, the straight grows round, 
The rugged smooth, the black and shining dull, 

Then swelling curves in bitumen abound, 

And forms arise more flowing: and more full." 



Now then, to watch the proceedings of the " Master " Fire as he begins to 
show his mastery over the submissive coal. Suppose we note first how he goes 
to work with one of those broad-faced blocks on which we have seen him 
hitherto but at play, — simply lighting up the previous play of Accident. 
Mark how he applies his powerful tool, Flame, with its numerous blades all in 
motion, first to an edge, then over the surface of the slab. From betwixt 
these sharp, bright, varicoloured blades, — some of them of steely blue, — it is 
only here and there, and now and then, that we can catch a glimpse of the 
dark material on which they are so busy, — yes, and noisy, for we hear them at 
their work, these lively implements of a living artist. And they have succeeded 
already in drawing some lifelike tokens from the inert mass, for it begins to 
breathe, in gases, fume, in smoke, and splutter, in pitchy bubbles. And now 
the Fire, that is, the Master, seems resting from his work in hand, his many- 
bladed chisel is withdrawn, and the face of the slab is again open to inspection. 
What an altered face it is ! In the first place, all " the shine " is out of it ; its 

i 



58 THE FIRE A SCULPTOR. 

cold glitter exchanged for warm dulness, as if turned from black granite into 
brownish bronze. It has lost with its shine its aspect of fictitious life, or liveli- 
ness, that which it had borrowed from reflected light ; also the lifelike motion 
given it just now by imparted heat ; so that, though beginning now to live in 
earnest, it looks, by comparison, somewhat dead as well asdull. The broken 
shapes, in relief or incision on the surface of the block, have, however, been 
moulded by the touches of Le Feu into a greater accordance with the character 
of living forms. Concavities have been filled, convexities thrown up, angles 
rounded, lines softened, and the harsh linear shapes these united to produce, 
have been melted with them, — some entirely away, others only into softness. 
The tool of Flame has, in fact, wrought upon this rough-faced slab with its 
mimicry of carving, an effect correspondent exactly to that of the chisel on a 
slab of marble occupied already by some rough-hewn sculptures. 

But here, in aid of description, is the identical bit of coal with its differing 
bits of imagery, as taken from the rough and from the smooth, from the sharp 
and from the round, from the block as turned over to Le Feu, and from the 
block as turned out (another, yet the same) from under his transforming touches 
(Plates XX. XXL). The most prominent object upon both is an alto-relievo, 
and it represents the most predominant of coaly sidjects, the head, in effigy, 
of a king, one and the same in two likenesses, which yet are most unlike. Be- 
hold it first in its primitive or primary character, as inherited from blocks 
ancestral, a kingly block itself, hard, heavy, cold, dark, sharp-featured and sharp- 
crowned, — a harder never crushed a mass of small coal, or of small people ! 
(Plate XX.) It has nothing of life in it but a show, and nothing of brightness, 
only the sparkle in its jetty (not jet) crown, and the glitter in its bright, but 
not far-seeing eye. Now mark it, this counterfeit of royalty, in its second (quite 
another) self, after Le Feu's rounding, softening tool, or, shall we call it reforma- 
tory fire r has done its work (Plate XXL). What has the king lost, what gained ? 
Lost, under the scrutinizing, searching flame, are the false jewels, jet or diamond, 
in his crown ; gone too is the restless sparkle in his eye. But though shorn of 
its glitter, how greatly has the royal — now " right royal "■ — head been a gainer 
by the Master's touches ! Rich brown curls, outmarvelling Macassar, have 



XX 










A ROYAL METAMORPHOSIS. 59 

succeeded to straight black hair, or its coally counterfeit; a comely face of 
curves, to a lank visage of lines and angles ; a warm breathing life, to nothing 
but a fitful sham of it ; in a word, Le Feu has here given an aspect of beauty to 
barrenness, of flesh to bone, of benevolence to rigour. A re-forming artist 
we must needs confess liim ! — yes, and we must confess too that he must have 
found something to work upon in the interior, of the head at least, of that 
dark-looking coal-king. That he did, certainly ; and it was something, we see, 
quite worth the trouble of bringing out, whether we call it bitumen, or pitch, or 
coal-tar brown. There is no looking at that sharp-struck medal, then at its 
softened obverse, without thinking of other kings, not exactly coal-blocks,, and of 
other fires, not exactly fed by coal. One calls to mind, or the fact, as here 
imaged, comes without calling, that such fires only serve in their first fitful 
flashes to exhibit the stern features of tyrannic rule in all their sternness ; and 
then one remembers (another fact here made palpable) how that these fitful 
flashes are apt to combine at last into a broad sheet of flame — a sheet likely to 
enrobe, over his purple, the devoted king. He may possibly emerge from its 
fiery folds, and from fiery purgation, to come out a king still, — now a real king, 
remodelled or reformed. This may happen. We have seen such process of 
remodelling in the atelier of Le Feu. Here in our exemplar look on it com- 
pleted ; and one has heard of the like of it in other places, and with real perso- 
nalities. Quite as often though, in Le Feu's atelier, and certainly elsewhere, 
the king, in effigy, or person, is lost sight of in that enfolding blaze, and when 
it sinks, lo, another " form," individual or of government, is reigning in his 
place ! 

But regarded simply as the artist, Le Feu is not always contented with 
working wonders of improvement on the primitive shapes submitted to his flame ; 
very frequently his work of transformation is so complete as to resemble, if it be 
not really, a work of creation. Here, for instance, on this same coal slab under 
its original aspect (Plate XX.), there appears beside the prominent head of the 
linear king, a pair of fragmentary shapes of corresponding character, that is to 
say, in respect of angularity and sharpness ; otherwise they are as perfect oppo- 
sites as such /^perfect things can be, — the ruling head so great and grand, the 

I 2 



6o THE FIRE A SCULPTOR. 

subordinate nondescripts so small and mean. Meaningless also they must be, 
— their placing come, as we suppose, of Accident. Yet they really seem to 
have fallen somehow into an appropriate position, quite handy at the tyrant 
king's right-hand, one to serve as a sharp instrument, the other as an attenuated 
victim of oppression. 

But in the same piece of sculptured or sculpture-like imagery under its 
second and softened aspect, these -angular figures have both disappeared, melted 
quite away under the flame chisel of Reform (Plate XXI.). Raised however 
in their places under the same evolving as well as rounding tool, two — nay, 
three — shapes of contrasted rotundity have started up. One is of a child feed- 
ing a bird as plump as a partridge, or himself; another of a ditto, holding a 
vase or censer, with issuing smoke and a gentle, steady flame. These figures 
can, of course, bear no connection with the royal head beside them, except 
as having happened to come out under its very shadow. But if Design — not 
Accident — had brought them together, we should have said certainly that the 
winged bird was meant to figure "Liberty" fed and fattened (not, be it hoped, 
to apterous excess) under a fostering rule ; the smoke from the censer, with 
its harmless flame, representing the incense of a people's love. 

Again to the grate, that is, to Le Feus grated studio. Heaped there as in 
" admired disorder," or what we hope to make so, are lots of other " pieces," 
slabs, blocks, and statuary, — some simply lighted, others in different stages 
towards completion, or — oh, the recklessness of ardent genius ! — or towards 
destruction, by the Master's own agency, before completion is achieved. 

Versatile as reckless, our sculptor has seldom less than a score or two of 
works in progress at the same time. Of these, some are deserted for others, 
after the common manner of men, while many are worked on simultaneously, 
after the superior manner of Le Feu. 

From this embarras de richesses what shall we appropriate next for a specimen 
of our sculptor's skill ? Not being gifted with genius, like Le Feu, we shall 
keep to one thing at a time, — to things, at any rate, of one sort. Suppose we 
look, therefore, for another of his tabular carvings, which, by the way, are much 
more like castings — castings, say, in bronze. Ah, there we see another of these 



XXI. 




FORMED By FIRE. 



P. 58. 



XXII. 




WHICH IS MOST MUSICAL? 

P. 61 



AN AUD1TRESS IFHO WANTS "RELIEF." 61 

same relievi as it stands, well lighted, against a companion slab (Plate XXII.). 
And what may be its subject? Anything, this time, but a king or a king's 
head. A head it is, and something more, for it is a half-length, moulded in 
high, very high and full relief, in this coal-bronze or, to call it by its plainer 
and more descriptive name, in coal-bubble or coal-tar. It images a corpulent, 
round-faced, roistering Musician, a puffy sort of troubadour, ancient or modern, 
(it would do for either) singing to his viol, banjo, or some such instrument, as 
corpulent as himself. As for his song, we read its title-page on his countenance, 
and find it dedicated to Bacchus and the Queen of Love, — to Bacchus, as 
astride upon a beer-barrel, — to Venus, as' dominant in camp and in canteen, 
scarcely as " ruler of the court or grove." This jolly minstrel would seem 
" in alto " altogether, — perhaps in his key, at any rate in much besides. He is 
evidently too much " elevated " to know precisely what he is about. Only 
hark to him as he puffs and splutters out his song (how fortunate we can't 
catch a word of it !) to just nobody and nothing, as if it was nothing better, 
nor worser, than a puff of smoke ! But stay! — we are entirely mistaken ; where 
could we have put our eyes ? Why, that self-sufficient fellow seemed to have 
the street — that is, the coal — entirely to himself, but here positively, passing him 
close by, is the figure — not to be mistaken — of an old Woman. Well, it is more 
apparent than ever that the singer is not in the least aware of what he is doing ; 
if he were, he would never, as we see him now, be addressing his questionable 
ditty to an auditor so thoroughly unsuitable as the individual in question. 
That poor old creature,— how could we have overlooked her until now ? We 
can only account for it in this way : though as near — nay, nearer — to the eye 
than her ill-matched companion, she is much less prominent, in fact, being an 
intaglio, she is without " relief." " Objects" that want " relief" are apt to be 
overlooked, sinking, as they do, below the surface, in sculpture and society. 

We are far from implying by the above observation that we take the poor 
old lady, in the coal, for a beggar ! Neither Accident nor Le Feu ever meant 
her to represent one. She looks a great deal more like a quiet, respectable 
(perhaps not respected?) individual — a lone body, — her position in the world, 
as in the block, rather sunken, like her face and figure. Now, as we come to 



62 THE FIRE A SCULPTOR. 

consider her, in that slate-coal cloak and bonnet, all of a piece, and which looks 
so rusted as well as grey, we incline to the opinion that Le Feu has nearly 
" finished " her. We really thought at first, she is so dry and cold in aspect, 
that he had not begun with her. In fact, we took her, when we first perceived 
her here in her effigy, for an imperfect " original " cut in by Accident, on part 
and parcel of the same coal-slab, which had thrown out, when commanded, its 
tar, and troubadour. Of part and parcel of the same, yet differing material she 
certainly is made, but she has passed (there's no doubting it !) under the fiery 
tool of the master sculptor, times how many, who can tell ? And this is what 
the fiery tool has left her ! — left remaining of her ! Well, such as she is, she 
seems passing quietly on her way — not far to go of it ! — the way opposite to 
that of the puffy musician, so full of liquor, song, and self. Close as he is to 
her elbow and her ear, she takes no more heed of performer or performance 
than we took of her before we saw her. Viewed simply as a coal, bereft, to all 
appearance, of its soul of fire, how can one expect her to have a soul for music ? 
Or viewed as what she looks like, a wayworn traveller, one can expect but just 
as little for her weary foot and weary heart to keep time with the tabret and 
the viol, with the voices of singing men and singing women. Yet there's no 
telling ? Her face is not harmonious, — sharp enough, Heaven knows ; but 
its sharpness is as from pinch of poverty, pinching the thin lips all the harder, 
to look a " bit respectable." There is no other, or worse asperity, about that 
quiet profile, — nay, one could really fancy there is something of music, or a 
taste for it, in her composition, if even (remembering the stones and Orpheus) 
there be coal or slate in it as well. If music be in her, it is not in unison 
with his. That is certain. It must be soft and low, and sweeter far than 
the music of that roistering reveller. But whatever may be hidden under 
that slate-grey cloak, or however Le Feu may have deserted, after being 
busy, on its wearer, he has yet something more to do with her before she is 
" quite done." He is giving at this moment some touches of ornament 
to the hat of the jolly minstrel, in shape of a flaring feather. The feather 
flutters, drops ; and the sculptor, leaving his " alto," comes over to his basso. 
Pshaw! what are we saying ? his intaglio, that is what we meant to say. 



XXIII. 







H COAL) 
POPULAR BUBBLE). 

P. 63. 



A PURITANIC PREACHER. 63 

Flash ! flash ! the sunken face of the aged traveller is lit up once — twice ; 
and now it is only to be seen as through a veil, while the tool of many blades, 
of many colours, plays about the head and slate-grey bonnet. It plays only, for 
work on this subject is nearly at an end. See, the many blades are uniting, 
the many hues fading into one, and the flame chisel spreads into a broad sheet 
of whitish flame. It enwraps the stooping form of the quiet wayfarer, and 
hides her from our sight. Ah, it was her winding-sheet ! for the poor old soul 
— that is, coal — is gone! broken up, broken off from her unmeet companion. 

Looking through the empty space she occupied, we discern another form 
in the calm glowing distance ; a shadowy form, more properly a shape of light. 
It is very like an angel with a golden harp, and, is it possible ? it bears some- 
thing of a likeness also to that same poor little soul (we can't now call her coal!) 
with its pinched features, slate-grey cloak, and ditto bonnet. 

We must have a tolerable notion now, or never shall, of the manner in 
which Le Feu plays the sculptor on the faces of his blocks, be they slaty or be 
they jetty. Let us therefore turn our attention for the present from relievi 
and intaglii, and watch the proceedings of our artist on a statuary form (Plate 
XIX.). Here we have him busy on a colossal bust, which looks as if carved, 
rudely enough, in black granite. As the tool of flame plies upon it, now here, 
now there, it seems converted, as usual, into brown bronze. And at last, by 
dint of rounding as well as of embrowning, behold it improved into something 
like a copy from the Classic! Thai, of course, it cannot be. Le Feu never 
copied in his "life." But it has so much the air of an antique about it, that 
one can't, for the life of one, help wondering whether the classic may not have 
been copied originally from the like of it ? 

Next, we shall follow the Master in his treatment (no doubt it will be 
transmuting!) of a modern subject (Plate XXIII. Fig. 1). First, let us "take 
it" as Le Feu finds it. It happens to be a half-length effigy, one particularly 
adapted for burning, in a bit of very pitchy coal. What does it look like ? 
Why, we can compare it to nothing more resembling than to a Puritanic 
preacher, of the popular type. Of such it is no bad image — lank-haired, lean- 
visaged, black-suited, and white-cravatted, only by a sham of reflected light. 



64 THE FIRE A SCULPTOR. 

Now observe, as they are wrought, the changes being effected by Le Feu's 
warming, moulding, and inflating touches, — as they work, mind, on the pitchy 
nature of the subject to which they are applied (Plate XXIII. Fig. 2). See 
how, under the expansive influence of the tool of flame, those pinched-up 
features widen ; how those thin dark cheeks plump up and redden ; how even 
that harsh black chevdure assumes a shade of brown, and softens into some- 
thing like an artificial curl ! 

Notice, in especial, that long deep chin. Just now — don't you remember ? 
— as well as long and deep, it was straight and square ; now it is rounded with 
the rest. It had seemed half buried within the folds of the capacious neck- 
tie ; it has come now to repose above the cambric (only counterfeit) in the 
meek dignity (counterfeit also) of a double fold of its own. In a word, this 
image of a popular idol has been " baptized," as would have said its original, in 
a font of flame, and has come out " a new creature ;" the image (is it not an 
apt one?) of a creature "new-born" to "creature comforts," — grown fat rapidly 
on "milk of human" weakness. Or we may liken it — this inflated bit of coal 
— to a stout pillar, or columnar fragment, with bronzed capital, of some sec- 
tarian edifice, — a very narrow one I — with which, in point of width, it bears 
undue proportion. But what matter? — seeing that its breadth is entirely ot 
body, not of spirit, nor of creed. 

Well, the tool of flame, which represents here the blaze of " religious " 
fervour, has done its work (pretty soon, too !) with the subject of our present 
notice. Yes, he has here quite done with it, as far, at least, as regards the pro- 
cess of inflation ; that of consummation is to come. And oh, when it comes 
to fall, that pitchy efligy of a pitchy idol, great will be the flare-up in the gulf 
to which it has been pointing with its coaly finger ! 

Look now at that group of splintery figures, shivered, yet not entirely 
detached, from a rock-like pinnacle of cold coal ; they are images, not fanciful, 
of a group of people (Plate XXIV.). But what sort of people are they like ? 
that big shiver and middling shiver and little wee shiver, — father, mother, and 
son. Like ? Why, we can liken them to nothing, slender and ragged as they 
are, but to a trio of poor starvelings, — sharp-featured, sharp-elbowed, sharp- 



XXIV 




TRANSMUTATION, 

(STACE FIRST.) 
ISERABLES (IN COAL SHIVERS). 






THE COAL-SHIFERS, AND THEIR LIKE. 6$ 

kneed splinters struck off nearly from the rock of society, of which, never- 
theless, they form a part. Or one could compare them to the same, that is, to 
creatures " all forlorn," such as are often cast up, or cast down, on the shores of 
the world, amongst its rocks, hard and cold, though beat on by a sea of fire. 
Unfortunates like these have been turned occasionally — at least, we have been 
told so— into rocks themselves, growing all the colder and all the harder from 
the beating of the fiery surge. The softening " uses of adversity " are not at 
all events exemplified in the family group of Shivers, brought by " Accident " 
before us. Though fellow-sufferers, and, without mistake, nearly related, — see 
how they turn their backs on one another. Mind, it is not so always with 
shivers in the fire ; nor often, happily, with starvelings in the world. 

Look again at that attenuated trio, and " Again ! " exclaims one of you, 
one of our fellow-students of life as exhibited by Le Feu, — " Again ! why, 
to confess the truth, I can't say I've seen them at all." You haven't ! how 
very strange ! yet not strange either, for " objects " of this sort seldom attract 
notice anywhere, much less where almost everything is overlooked. So you 
can't discern that group of coal splinters or shivers (it's much the same) ! at 
least you haven't, and they won't last, as they are, much longer. Well, but 
you've seen the like of them, not exactly in coal, but in something else, — not 
exactly in the fire, but in some other focus of life, warmed and lighted, or 
lighted only. " You can't say." Well, we can show you what we mean at 
any time; no time better than the present. This is a winter's night, — a wintry 
one ; you are going home in your carriage, give us a seat in it, and we shall 
be able, we are certain, to point out to you some such objects as we have had 
in view, all this while that they have been invisible to you. 

So, here we are, in a comfortable brougham in London streets, in the early 
London season, — a season of spectacles very grand and striking, but our busi- 
ness to-night is with none of these ; it is to look out for a spectacle very mean 
and, seemingly, inconspicuous, just such another as we have been seeing, and 
you can't see, in the fire. Have the goodness to wipe that carriage-window, the 
one next you ; the glass is dim with our warm breathing, and it streams outside 
with the mingled rain and sleet. Thank you ; now we can discern better the 

K 



66 THE FIRE A SCULPTOR. 

dark blocks of houses with their illuminated fronts, all flare and glare and 
glitter. Passing before them on the pavement, so wet and slippery, are a few 
moving bodies upon legs ; in the carriage-way, and their courses opposite, are 
many moving bodies upon legs and wheels ; the latter we can only see by 
halves, chiefly by the carriage " moons," as they wax and wane through the 
drizzly fog, and the smoke from the horses' nostrils and their reeking hides. 

Is there anything here in the least degree comparable to life in the fire ? 
There is, certainly, if it's nothing nearer than the flare and smoke. These, 
at any rate, are common to the fire and the street. That you must admit. 
" Why, yes," responds our friend (owner of the comfortable brougham) ; " but 
we see nothing here any more than in the fire, like the ' objects ' you've been 
talking of, — -fancying, we do believe, amongst the coals." Well, now, at all 
events, there's no " fancy " in the case. Look there, against that red house ; 
don't you see in the lamplight a group of thin dark Objects, three of them 
together on the white doorstep? What! you can't discern them? Oh, no 
wonder! for, just this minute, you've pulled the blind down. How absurd 
to think of seeing through a silk curtain, and that of couleur de rose! Just 
allow us. Ah, now it's up again ; and there, just where they were, are those 
shivery creatures crouched on the doorstep of that brick-fronted house. 
There they are, the " great shiver," " middling shiver," and "little wee shiver" 
— father, mother, child, — their white faces, of other whiteness than of shiny 
coal, looking whiter in a flare of gas. The gas is streaming from a jet at a 
butcher's shop, which divides its light impartially betwixt those living skeletons 
and a suspended carcass of fat mutton. There are in the world some equal 
distributions ! Hard by, very hard to them, is a comfortable interior, where 
the buxom maid-servant is shutting up the shutters ; we catch sight behind 
her of crimson curtains, crimson carpet, glowing firelight, glowing faces, — we 
feel ours almost warm through " reflection." It is but for a moment, and 
there's nothing left but the pale gas and the pale ones in the street ; the 
carriage window is let down, — not this time the rose-coloured blind,- — a chink 
(is it of silver or copper ?) upon the white doorstep, and — back we are again 
to the fireside — in front, we mean — of the atelier of Le Feu. 



XXV. 







TRANSMUTAT: 

(STAGE SECOND). 

1MFORTABLES (IN COAL 
■ 



A TRIO OF "COMFORTABLES" IN COAL-TAR. 67 

And how, by this time, with the group, the real group, of shivery images 
in cold illuminated coal ? Oh, they're not cold now, for our sculptor has 
taken them in hand in ardent earnest ; that moulding, softening, evolving 
implement, the flame-chisel, is plied incessantly upon them, and ever and anon 
it holds them, as it were, in a warm embrace. Now it is withdrawn, and lo • 
those slender, ill-favoured, ill-to-do-looking bits of Nobodies, converted into 
plump, well-favoured, well-to-do-looking bits of Somebodies (Plate XXV.). 
Why, that tool of flame, working artistically on broken forms of coal, has 
been imitating exactly a flame of real charity working benevolently on real 
broken-down objects of distress. It has made something of them just by 
helping them to make something of themselves. Those warming, expanding, 
evolving touches have brought forth their latent and congealed capabilities, 
and filled them out with, — no matter what, — with the best affluence we can 
expect in coal. Behold the shivery trio in remodelled form. We might 
have doubted their identity, but for having watched the process of their 
transformation. There they are, a couple of bronzy images, with a little 
" image " of themselves between them ; they are surrounded by a warm haze 
of heated smoke, — no, it must be meant for dust, the good folks being 
evidently on their way to market, seated behind a pony (there's not a doubt of 
it, though we can't see him) as fat and comfortable as themselves. Master, 
whip in hand, pipe in mouth ; mistress sitting on her eggs and apples like a 
brooding hen. Two of her own brood are of the party, the firstborn busy 
with the hamper — in furtive imitation, not, be it hoped, of his own mother, 
only of mother Eve. 

Such transformations are of everyday occurrence in the narrow confines 
of the grate, that is, grated studio ; would they were as common in " the wide 
wide world " ! 

Le Feu, in thus working as a master sculptor upon primitive forms, re- 
minds one at one while of the beneficent operations of a fostering Providence, 
at another of those imputed to a master fiend, who should bestow upon his 
victims the gift of fictitious youth. We have seen how that our fiery artist, let 
him be representative of what he may, can make his subjects juvenile, — how 

k 2 



68 THE FIRE A SCULPTOR. 

he can round off sharpnesses of limb and feature, plump the hollow cheek, 
smooth the deep-lined forehead, and clothe the head with locks redundant. 
But sometimes, by a process nearly similar, he would seem only to outstrip 
Nature, instead of turning her backward on her course. Instead of suddenly 
re-investing age with youth, he is content sometimes to bring youth at once 
to maturity. We may see him, for instance, force in a minute a slip of a 
girl into a blossom of a woman, full-blown — with bitumen, and again, swell, in 
a second, a sharp smooth-faced splinter of a boy into a full-sized — fragment of 
a man filled out and bearded with the same. 

See a metamorphosis of the latter description perfectly exemplified, there, 
in Le Feu's atelier, — very /^perfectly here, in our study from the same (Plate 
XXVI.). 

Look at these two effigies ; they are of one and the same individual under 
two successive and, as treated by our artist, rapidly succeeding shapes. They 
are not changed quite past recognition, but we have in Number 2 a won- 
derful expansion of Number 1. Only mark this altered, yet self-same 
subject, in the rough and in the smooth, in the sharp and in the round, in the 
block and in the bronze, in the black and in the brown, in the boy and in 
the man. Yes, black and brown ; and " Brown " (" Mister Brown ") will fit 
exactly with a name the respectable personage (Number 2), here imaged in 
the "bronze." while "Black" (blackguard, say, or shoeblack) will suit him to 
a T, in his broken, ragged, primitive condition in the block. 

But what are we about ? talking of blackguard and shoeblack as synony- 
mous, just as if we had been born in the last century. 

Herein we have also committed another error. It was our intention to 
select from Le Feu's endless transformations a few only of the most striking 
and extraordinary, or such as illustrate the more remarkable transformations 
observable in life. Yet now, as we come to think of it, — that is, look at it, — 
that poor ragged Master " Black," and then, at his pitchy efflorescence into 
" Mister Brown," portly " Mister Brown," there is nothing striking, nothing 
strange about it,- — quite the contrary ; instead of a magic metamorphosis it 
images nothing but a common growth, a result of common culture. For 







(tar), 
ard to the highly respectable Mr. I 



LE FEU THE ARTIST, AND LE FEU THE COOK. 69 

what seen more commonly in the present day in every street, in every quarter, 
than " respectabilities " grown out of blacking-pots, — nay, growing in them. 
But, harmless joking apart, and, we hope, pardoned, all honour and respect 
to the philanthropic gardeners who thus cultivate wildings for their own and 
the public benefit ; and hip, hip, hurrah ! for the " shoeblack " and the " rag- 
brigades." 

There is another sort of transformation, not rapid, but slow ; not occa- 
sional, but universal ; not of character so much as aspect, which " Live Coals," 
in common with live people, always have to undergo. In short, as a condition 
attendant on their brief vitality, the former, like the latter, grow old, visibly old, 
unless, as for ever happening, broken or swallowed up suddenly before they 
come to cindery decay, hence to dust and ashes. We have already seen some- 
thing of the manner in which Le Feu works upon his primitive subjects, — most 
of them looking, only looking, aged from the beginning, in their dry, stiff, cold 
angularity. We have beheld how even these have plumped up under his 
touches into the roundness of youth and the richness of prime ; but we have 
yet to mark, what is sure to follow, how they shrink under the same ardent 
handling into the aspects of decline. At this moment, we can see before us in 
the grated " studio " studies of the latter " stages " and " last stage of all," but 
there for the present we shall let them be. As " natural " to " old coals,' they 
are pale and grey, and, as natural to " live coals," in their hot summer, they have 
been red or ruddy before " frosted by fire " into those wintry hues. In both 
seasons they exemplify Le Feu's colouring — his coloured sculpture, as distin- 
guished from his bronzed. On this account we forbear further notice of them 
now, and till, in some future sitting, we can pay attention to our " master " ex- 
clusively as a " master colour ist." Be it noticed here that Le Feu, in his artis- 
tic capacity, does not quite resemble certain " artistes " of another description, 
who always work by his assistance, and sometimes bear his name. While " Le 
Feu," the consummate cook, can make out of the driest of bones the most 
luscious of aldermanic dishes, Le Feu, the consummate sculptor, can/w/ make 
out of the driest of coals the most corpulent of " corporations," — neither out of 
the same unproductive material the chubbiest of Cupids or the most flowing of 



7© THE FIRE A SCULPTOR. 

curls. The veriest bit of stone or slate that ever was misnamed a block of 
" best Wallsend " must submit, together with its imagery, to have its rough- 
nesses smoothed, and sharpnesses rounded, according to the " master's " behest. 
It does not, however, — because, seemingly, poor thing ! it cannot, answer gene- 
rously to his evolving influence, nor meet by swelling globosities (that sounds 
grander than pitchy bubbles) his tool of flame. Even the earliest operations 
of Le Feu on such a dry primitive are more or less of a wasting description. 
His subjects wrought in it are apt, instead of bursting, as if preternaturally, into 
bituminous youth, to shrink prematurely into cindery age, — if, indeed, it can be 
said of these images in poor coal, that they " groic aged,'"' seeing that like " the 
children of the poor " they, in looks, " are never young"* The poorer products 
of the mine are, however, rich as the richest in variety of simulative forms, both 
such as "happen" to be rough-hewn, ready for moulding, and those that are 
entirely fashioned, though they cannot be drawn out by the evolving flame. 
When we speak of " a variety of simulative forms" we mean — what must have 
become evident to every opened eye — an endless variety of such as effigy the 
human family, — always (kings at the head of it) the reigning family — the family 
that " rules the roast " in the iron-bound regions of the grate. With a some- 
thing of apparent contradiction, the primitive shapes in poor hard coal are by 
no means always — old as they may look — of the most rude and repulsive appear- 
ance. It is in the richest products of the mine, while as yet untouched by 
fire, that harsh, stiff figures most often meet the eye. These figure not un- 
aptly certain human natures (minds as well as bodies) fulfilled with rich endow- 
ment, — natures which may present the most dry and uninviting aspects till 
they come within some warming influence ; then we see what they are made of. 
There is one thing in which there is little difference, saving of degree, be- 
twixt the rich (coal) and the poor. As with the pitchy so with the stony ; the 
putting off of cold shiny black for warm dull brown is the first outward token 
of submission to Le Feu-en-Mai t re, though in matters of shine and blackness 
the stony, you know, have precious little— or little precious — to part with. 
Neither can the stony show a brown so rich and uniform, nor wear it half so 

* Charles Lamb. 



xxvn. 




OPPOSITES. 



AS PIN AND PINCUSHION 'MADE FOR ONE ANOTHER." 



P. 71. 



XX 1 . 




OPPOSITES. 

A PARISH PRO! 

' All very well, my good man, but 
I'm. bound, you see, to my own poor. 
In fact I'm the prop of the pari 



P. 71. 



HARD "BODIES" AND SOFT. Jl 

long, — hasting to put on or put out, in its stead, the pale, grey neutrals which 
bespeak its meaner quality. Hence, as we have said and seen, do poor, low- 
" lived" coals look old the soonest. 

As respects capability of transformation, i. e. of being transformed, we shall 
find (though one might not think it) that the stony (coal) is not a whit behind 
the pitchy, only that the changes which Le Feu can work on it are less rapid, 
and accordant, of course, with its own inferior self-productiveness. 

Of transforming, be it what it may, our wonder-working artist never tires. 
But you, our fellow-spectators of his performances, may be tired enough — as 
sometimes towards the end of a pantomime — of seeing him transform. Well, 
then, suppose we turn for awhile from his transformations to his Contrasts. 
"Oh!" but you may say possibly, "of contrasts too we have seen a heap 
already." Yes, but these, remember, have been chiefly as presented by one 
and the same subject contrasted with itself. The contrasts we shall notice 
now are such as are exhibited by two or more separate subjects of opposite 
character. Let us search around our sculptor's studio for an example or two 
of the opposites we mean. There are plenty to be found at hand in dis- 
cordant yet associate effigies in the " block " and in the " bronze." 

Look how some of them are thrown together (of course by Accident), with 
a whimsical aptitude that images exactly the like placing of " opposites " (of 
course by Design) in the seeming jumble of life — life not in the fire but the 
world. 

Here, for instance, the first that meets us, is a pair, — the hard and sharp, 
the soft and round (Plate XXVII.). Some people would call them a pair ill- 
matched. We beg their pardon, for this couple are exactly matched, as pin 
and pincushion, which everybody knows were " made for one another." 

Here, again, as effigied in different portions, the warmer and colder, the 
richer and poorer, of the selfsame coal, is a group of contrasted individuals, 
such as are to be seen, in flesh and fat, and skin and bone, every clay, and on 
every highway of this Christian land (Plate XXVIII.). 

The predominant personage in the centre is puffing out (don't you seem to 
hear him in the puff and splutter of the swelling pitch ?) the ordinary plea for 



7^ THE FIRE A SCULPTOR. 

closing the pocket, and something else, against the " casual " mendicant. " All 
very well, my good man," he is saying, " but I'm bound, you see, to my own 
poor. In fact, I'm the prop of the parish." 

Not far off, upon a bed of bitumen, lie another pair, more correspondent 
in appearance, certainly (Plate XXIX.). See those drowsy damsels of pitchy 
plumpness, contrasted with a wakeful apparition of stone-coal. Apparition ? yes, 
an alarming apparition, — but not, in reality, a ghost. It is much too material 
in the matter of raw bone or raw coal, though dry and dead enough, goodness 
knows, to have been raised, as in truth it has been, from a sepulchre of ages. 
Be it whatever else it may, it is a perfect image, and no phantom, of a certain 
vigilant Housekeeper, still alive in fable, and of others of the same stony stamp 
alive always in the flesh. " All flesh," we know, " is grass." There are flinty 
" grasses," and of these are such siliceous individuals. Many varieties of them 
are known to flourish in various localities where slips of parish girls are planted 
out to wither. There she stands, that rigid pattern of early wakefulness, doing 
duty for her Cock defunct. Her expiring " dip " dipping into darkness, there 
she stands, exemplary monitress, " en chemise" and "bonnet de nuit" and ""upon 
crasseux"* crowing up her maids before the dawn. Yes, there she stands 
and there they lie, the lazy, good-for-nothing creatures, just as if they were 
part and parcel of the bed they lie on, which in reality they are. These 
sleepers awakened owe, mind, all their plump exuberance exclusively to tar, and 
to their "treatment" by Le Feu,- — not a bit of it to their treatment by the 
parish, nor, by all appearance, to that experienced in their place. Indeed for 
place, parish, and perhaps for the fable, their faces are, it must be owned, most 
fabulously fat. But we don't pity them, not we, the murderous hussies ! 
Their "missus" is only a just minister of vengeance haunting their bedside 
before the cock-crow, for the murder of Sir Chanticleer. Look again at that 
frightful apparition. Mark her nightcap, bowed and tied with crimson, as 
if be-crested and be-combed. Look at her bedgown full in frill, as if in 
feather. Notice her long, sharp, talons and beak of aquiline configuration. 
Now wonder, if you can, that her maids should take her for what they evidently 

* La Fontaine. 







r es . 







! ! LITANY PI 



EAR-IV-RINGS. 73 

do, or will when wide awake, — the ghost of the old white cock himself, come to 
" call them up " for killing him. 

Apropos of Contrasts, we are struck, not though for the first time, with 
one of a somewhat different description to those we have been noting. We 
perceive some tiny bodies pendent to a large one, like Lilliputians to a Gulli- 
ver ! It doesn't do always to revert to the origin of either little people or of 
big, but we may say, en passant, what little effigies of this description originally 
are. They are then, or mere, the smallest of splinters or shivers, struck from 
some great block, to which nevertheless they remain, after a manner, attached. 
Some of them look, from beginning to end, or as long as we can see them, 
like mere splinters and nothing else. Others are shaped somehow, even from 
their breaking, into pigmy figures, which await, like the colossal forms they 
come from, their "finish" from Le Feu. Rough or finished, rude or reformed, 
these insignificant little bodies often come with a sort of grotesque aptitude 
(we had almost said significance) just into the right place, — the right place, it 
may be, though, to figure something rather wrong ! Here are two instances. 

In the first (Plate XXX.), a trio of little devils — certainly rude in their 
proceedings, if not wrong — have turned into scaling-ladders the beard and 
moustaches of a son of Mars. In example number two (Plate XXXI.), we 
have a pair, we will not call them imps, but of impish ear-w-rings adapted to 
Negro wear and tear. Pendants of this small yet ponderous description were 
used to be in vogue only down South, where they were patented by planters 
and dealers for their black establishments. Of late, the monopoly in these 
articles has ceased, and they have now, as everybody knows, their pendants in 
the North. In that portion of the dis-united " Union," these negro ear-wrings 
appear in novel shapes. Those of latest introduction are curiously fashioned — 
not as here (by Le Feu or Accident ?) into likenesses of drivers, dealers, and 
planters, but into such as bear a greater resemblance to generals, philan- 
thropists, and preachers. 

One more word about these little personages, — simply keeping to the coal, — 
we meant to say appendages. Be it particularly borne in mind that little as they 
are, and white (in ash) as they have grown, they are of the same substance, 

L 



74 THE FIRE A SCULPTOR. 

and were once of the same colour, as the great black native, certainly of a hot 
climate, whose ears they w-ring. 

Our studies from the studio ot Le Feu have now made us acquainted with 
two very distinct series of sculpture-like forms, — the first, say, of " primitive 
formation " in the coaly block ; the second, or secondaries, such as are thence 
evolved at " the master's " bidding, or wrought by his vivifying touches into a 
closer resemblance to the forms of life. We begged attention (we hope ob- 
tained) to a general likeness in this coal imagery, while in its primaeval stage, 
to the sculptures of remote antiquity. It is now time to notice that in its 
secondary and succeeding stages it presents a like correspondence with the 
styles and forms of Art at later periods. 

This curious fact, clear as the firelight which makes it evident, has been 
as yet but partially and very feebly illustrated on our paper ; — this, in a mea- 
sure, because our exemplars have been chosen hitherto more with a view to 
show their aptitude to image human faces, and phases of human nature, than 
faces and phases of human art. Now, though, we have " drawn " from the 
heap of evidences always before us (when before the fire) a few testimonials, 
addressed to sight, of the resemblances in question. As here given, by our 
"drawings" from Le Feu, they are imperfect enough — that we must confess; 
but they are perfectly honest — that we do affirm. 

Only look at these faithful copies from the coals, — coal " marbles" — coal 
"bronzes"! (Plate XXXII.) Do they not look like copies (rather faithless) from 
other things ? Some of their originals you have seen already (on our showing) 
in the grate — (psha! we always mean grated studio) — and you must have seen 
something like them somewhere else. We have, repeatedly, — but where 
last? Where was it last that we looked on certain objects of which these 
remind us, — objects something like these, and as brought together in some- 
what like manner ? .... As we ponder on the question, we discern the 
glittering roofs of Sydenham as they rise above the haze of memory and 
London fog And now we are in the Art Palace of the People — re-tra- 
versing its Courts — halting in each of them by turn. 

We stand (looking up, and feeling little) in the colossal presence of seated 



>■: 




WHERE TO FIND SCULPTURAL PERFECTION. 75 

kings and priests and deities of Egypt and Assyria. Rigid, rectangular, stern 
and still, they look, even here, and now, these images of images, fresh from the 
hand of the restorer, exceeding great and grand ! They must have looked much 
grander, if not greater (at least one thinks so), when fresh (in their originals) 
from the hand of the sculptor, and enthroned in their native temples and 
palaces of Nineveh or Thebes. They must have looked less grand, perhaps 
less great, but much more grave and awful, when just disturbed from their 
repose of ages, — just brought up again to the light of day amidst the ruins of 
their ancient dominion. But they must have looked grandest of all, and most 
imposing, when exhibited in all their glory by the blaze of their sacred Jires. 
Now, don't you think so ? They must have had then what they require now. 
With all their colour, these great images of images seem, as we see them here, 
to want warmth. They haven't (artistically speaking) a spark of fire in their 
composition — nor of life! They exhibit no more of either than the colossal 
imagery in unkindled coal ; and that (as exhibited by Le Feu) has greatly the 
advantage, through fire and life of his reflection. 

A few steps have conducted us to — we won't say Sculptural Perfection (she 
having lived from time immemorial in Le Feu's academy) — but to her nearest 
neighbour, resident in the Grecian Court (Plate XXXIII.) We pause to ad- 
mire, — could fall down and worship before gods and goddesses of mortal mould, 
only inferior to those of fiery formation ! As compared with the latter, we may 
call them de?ni-gods ; yet, in truth, they are very god-like for grace and gran- 
deur, — glorious exemplars, in their swelling curves, of the magic line of beauty ! 
Talk of cold marble ! The marble they are made of seems to glow with fire — 
of life ! nearest approach to coal, with life — of fire ! 

But their worshippers are by no means numerous here in this modern Temple 
of the Arts ; their Court is not attended as it should be. We can gather some- 
thing of the reason from the profane whispers of a pair of visitors — (they do 
whisper, though they are not worshippers) — Mrs. Butcher Smith, of White- 
chapel, and Mrs. Tailor Jones, of Wapping. " Raly now," says Smith to 
Jones, " them 'ere figgurs is surprising ! and considerin' they're antics (as they 
calls 'em) they're in excellent condition ! They wants nothing but a bit o' 

L 2 



7 6 THE FIRE A SCULPTOR. 

colour to make 'em look like wholesome flesh and blood!" — "Yes, sure," says 
Jones to Smith (Mrs. Tailor Jones is heiress of a Welsh flannel factor) ; " Yes, 
sure, that would be a wonderful eddition ! And then they'd want nothing but 
a bit of decent clothing to make 'em (those Cupids in partick'lar) look like 
perfect babes of grace, or what they comes to, blessed angels !" Well, we 
shall have more to see (in the fire) and more to say (by the fireside) about 
clothed and coloured statuary by-and-by. Meanwhile we perceive (looking 
round our Grecian Court) enough of drapery — and, looking up at the Par- 
thenon frieze, enough of colouring — to show that the sculptors of Greece, 
some of them at all events, would have sided with Mesdames Smith and Jones 
in condemnation of the colourless and nude. Yet — minus colouring, minus 
clothing — the sculptural masterpieces (masters, mind, only of their own school) 
seem, as we have said, and as says every one but Smith and Jones, to glow as 
well as breathe. They do glow certainly, since they were the work of Sculp- 
ture when in her highest blaze ; and when, like our ardent artist in the grated 
studio, she infused of her own fire into all she touched. 

Here, in this Art Temple, how we step in a moment over the dark void, — 
across the wide chasm that divides, in the history of Art, the Classic from the 
Gothic. It is passed, and here we are at the Courts Gothic and Mediaeval. 
(Plate XXXIV.) Amidst tombs and arches, bosses, corbels, carved pannels, 
and the rest of it. — here we are, to wander and to wonder. Delighted, dazzled, 
almost confounded, we admire often — worshipping but seldom. This Gothic 
and Mediaeval imagery ! What a medley it presents of the sublime and the 
ridiculous, the graceful and the grotesque, the beautiful and the bizarre ! Just 
the productions to be expected at the hand of Sculpture when awakening and 
awakened from her torpor, like a fitful fire from its smoulder. 

Now she is lavish both of colouring and clothing. Mrs. Smith and Mrs. 
Jones are in ecstasies. They want nothing now but something to find fault 
with ; for there is no lack here of " wholesome flesh and blood," with angels in 
plenty decently attired ! And, good ladies, we promise you the same (when 
you come to look for them) in the middle of our fire, or your own. Now we 
do not mean exactly in the middle of the grate, i.e. grated atelier, but in the 



UPB 



FACTS AND QUERIES. J J 

mediaeval stage (corresponding with mediaeval age) of our sculptor's glowing 
productions. When arrived at that, how replete his imagery with the eccen- 
tricities of revived cinder, and the vari-colours of remodelled slate ! 

Another Court — and this is the Renaissance. Offspring of the new birth 
of Art — or call them resurrectionary forms of the antique dead — crowd about us. 
Angel-like, saint-like, sinner-like, life-like, how they start out (and startle us!) 
from renaissante bronze and terra-cotta. See them on shield and altar-piece 
and frieze and gate of Christian temple ! Through these we reach the " Gates 
of Paradise."* Hereat we gaze and linger like the sinning parents of mankind, 
— would stay for ever, but we can't ! The ruddy sunset, as though it were the 
flaming sword, warns us to depart, or we shall be too late for the last train — or 
the last "'bus!" So we turn our backs upon the Sydenham Eden 

From this dreamy retrospect let us re-turn our faces to the fire — or, better, 
take first another look at the faces and fragmentary figures here faithfully de- 
picted from Le Feu. We can't look now at these without reverting in thought 
to those — the Sculptures of the Schools ; nor, henceforth, at the Sculptures of 
the Schools without being reminded of the Sculptures in the Grate. Nobody 
can say that the comparison between them is far-fetched, for it is fetched no 
further than from the artistic assemblage between the bars and the nearest art_ 
collection beyond them. Admitted (what cannot be denied) that the two are 
mutually suggestive now in the way of resemblance, — about degrees- of it we 
needn't quarrel, — why might not one have been, once, suggestive of the other 
in the way of imitation ? 

Reverting again, only for a moment, to the Art Palace, we remember now, 
in the Mediaeval Court, a certain piece of rare workmanship in iron,"]" whose 
producer was held by contemporary ascription to have owed his consummate 
skill to leagueship with the Devil. That was to impute of "fiery inspiration" 
with a vengeance ! To ascribe the beautiful to the prince and principle of 
deformity may seem a little surprising, even in a semi-barbarous age. Not so, 

* Those of the baptistery at Florence by Ghiberti, called by Michael Angelo " The Gates of 
Paradise." 

t Taken from one of the doors of Notre Dame, at Paris. 



78 THE FIRE A SCULPTOR. 

however, when we call to mind that he (the arch-fiend) can wear upon occa- 
sion an angel's form, and that he has texts of Scripture at his fingers' or his 
hoofs' ends. This considered, where the wonder that he should have been 
credited with directing the fingers of an artist in the exquisite decorations even 
of a church-door ? Such a popular belief was, at all events, quite accordant 
with the character (moral and artistic) of that motley mediaeval time, with its 
chequers of deep obscurity and brilliant light. It was only natural, when the 
super-excellent was seen to flash out, as it so often did, against its dark oppo- 
site, that the phenomenon should be regarded as beyond nature, — ascribed 
immediately to the source divine, or to its diabolic opposite. Those wonder- 
ful carvings and castings in stone and wood and metal — diabolically beautiful 
as some are, — nobody nowadays could entertain the notion that they were 
wrought in Satanic workshops, or under particular direction of the Evil One 
himself. We, in our cheerful firelight, are the last to wander back into such 
dark delusion. Yet now, as we sit and look, first into the fiery depths, then 
at the forms we have snatched from out them, then again, in recollection, at 
the sculptural assemblage just briefly re-visited, — we incline more than ever 
to the belief that, in the production of the latter, Jierxj inspiration really had 
a share. And within our grated studio — neither below it nor above, — do 
we discern all the inspiration of which we would impute. We see there our 
ardent artist moulding his in part prepared material, not indeed into every 
variety of simulative form, but into every conceivable shaping and aping of 
the form human, — this most often with accessories of colour and clothing, as 
represented at successive periods by humanity itself. We see him, in short, 
holding up to us the very image of Sculptural Art, — that in all dresses, of all 
times. He only, perhaps, reflects her most vividly of all in her mediaeval gar- 
ment, — so richly figured, so warmly coloured, so lavishly adorned, — of fashion 
partly beautiful, partly bizarre, — just as she wore it (loosely sometimes, like a 
brocaded dressing-gown) on rising from her sleep of centuries. One thing, 
at all events, is certain. Le Feu never caught the fire of his inspiration from 
sculptural geniuses amongst mankind ; nobody can be quite as positive that they 
did not catch a spark or two of theirs from Le Feu. 



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